Monday, December 31, 2012

home made thai meals - dec 2012

Having just returning from Thailand I am eager to put my trip experience to the test. This are few Thai meals that I made recently.

Friday, December 28, 2012

this and that - hong kong 2012, part 2

queen's road in central early morning

this and that - hong kong 2012, part 1

Sorry for the rather lame title. For the first time I am just at a lost of an appropriate title for this post. This is a collection of things that caught my eyes. Some bordering on design and commercial art.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

lin heung lau 蓮香樓

This is one of the few Cantonese restaurants left in Hong Kong that preserves the traditional appearance, operation, and most importantly the taste of the food especially when it comes to dim sum. If you want to experience the dim sum 點心 experience of what once upon a time ubiquitous Cantonese tea restaurant 茶樓 during the colonial era Lin Heung Lau 蓮香樓 and the nearby Luk Yu Tea Room 陸羽茶室 are about it. The very well appointed Luk Yu Tea Room 陸羽茶室 however has always been a very exclusive establishment catered to the well heeled businessmen in the Central District. Lin Heung Lau 蓮香樓 on the other hand are for the everyday people.

dai pai dong 大牌檔

In a recent trip to Hong Kong I wanted to visit some dai pai dong 大牌檔 that are not in the tourist beaten paths. I seek out a small cluster in Sham Shui Po. While dai pai dongs used to be ubiquitous in Hong Kong decades ago now there are only few remaining. There is a resurgence of dai pai dongs in recent years due to the rekindled interest of the local people and tourists. These new dai pai has improved sanitation and are constructed with revised modern design and material like stainless steel.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

korean cold noodles

I am not too crazy about entree that is served cold. May be is just I am aware that our taste receptors don't work as well in cold. Case in point, you have to add much more sugar in a cold drink such as ice coffee to taste the same sweetness than if you drink the same coffee hot. Likewise in Northern China there are appetizers that are served cold. To make them tasty the flavor and seasoning have to be more concentrated than if you serve them hot.

Monday, November 5, 2012

curry chicken and glutinous rice in banana leaf

I have 2 groves of banana plants in my property. When I first bought the house I was so surprised to see a grove of banana plant in the backyard. I had no idea that it is possible for banana plant to survive in mild Pacific Northwest. In the first winter everything above wilted from winter freeze. The blustery weather in late fall also tends to batter the leaves.

I would learn that despite how sad the plants look, new shoots would spout each spring, and the new growths of the year would reach great height by the end of the summer. I took some small shoots together with enough rhizome and planted a grove in the front yard.
leaves battered by the blustery autumn storms
I get a lot of surprised remarks from passerbys and neighbours alike. A few weeks ago I gave away a few shoots to a passerby so he and his wife too can have banana plants in their yard. They were very happy.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

new coat for brunnhilde

I have been considering buying a cover for Brunnhilde ever since summer. The thought of manhandling such a large cover on the 11 feet high vehicle have been the cause of my indecision.

From my research the class B RV cover sold on eBay by elitecarcovers that claims to fit Airstream Westfalia looks most promising. Reading between the lines I suspected it is a generic class B RV cover. It was $225.52 with $20 shipping.

Seeing the vendor's name I thought I would see if it has a website outside of eBay. Sure enough it does. Trouble is they only have one type of class B RV cover, and there is no mention it is the same one sold on eBay. There are 4 sizes with identical width, height, but different length. I suspected that the shortest one must be the same one on eBay. It is $20 cheaper and with free shipping - a net $40 saving it is the same cover.
Months passed and now it is rainy seasons here. I decided to give them a call. A Hispanic sounding lady answered the call and I immediately cut to the chase on my question. She acknowledged it is the same cover. I expressed some reservation on it fitting the 11 feet tall camper. She checked her purchase history of the Airstream Westfalia and said she did not see any reported problem. Knowing with only 250 in the US I would be wasting my time expecting they have actually outfitted one on it.

While the cover's 117" height is much shy of 132" actual height of the vehicle I was counting the camper's narrower width than the cover's 84" width would allow the cover to drape down a few more inches to make up on the apparent dimension deficit. The other main concern is the protruded bump of the high top front. However I figure the 20 feet length of the cover for the actual 18.5 feet vehicle length would give extra slop to accommodate the bump. I ordered the cover online.

minced beef fried rice 生炒牛肉飯

This is a very common and popular dish in a restaurant that serves Cantonese cuisine in Hong Kong. In the old days in these restaurant there is only a few dishes of fried rice. This minced beef fried rice 生炒牛肉飯 and Yangzhou fried rice 楊州炒飯 are always on the menu.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

kimchi and pork lian gao 炒年糕

Sticky rice cake is eaten in many Asian cultures. It is called lian gao (or lin go in Cantonese) 年糕 in Mandarin. It is made with flour of glutenous rice (sticky rice). Here in Oregon I found the best quality ones are from Korean stores. While they are exactly like the Chinese one, the Korean ones always have a slanted cut instead of straight cut.


I had long wanted to learn to make paella. Watching how it is made in travel shows intimidated me as they always show you some Spanish chefs prepared it in an open fire with only twigs as fuel. Also I discovered that an online purveyor of Spanish food is more than happy to sell you everything you would need to make paella.

Like many cooking it is best to just do it and learn from your mistake. I decided to plunge in with both feet. Paella is remarkably similar to Chinese clay pot rice though the ingredients and technique in preparing them are different.

deep fried taro biscuit 炸芋頭餅

One of my passion on food is to recreate a number of memorable street snacks I loved in my youth, or those I encountered during my overseas travel.

Taro is eaten in most if not all Asian cultures. Taro 芋頭 comes in different sizes from tiny ones smaller than chicken egg to big ones weighting in a few pounds. They are not always good to eat and picking the delicious one may be a challenge. The good eating one should not be too powdery that tastes dry. It should have some glue like consistency but yet a bit powdery.

Monday, October 29, 2012

steamed big head vegetable with beef 大頭菜篜午肉

One of my recent passion in cooking of Chinese cuisine is to visit dishes that have very little exposure outside of Asia. Many of these are popular regional dishes ate by families at home. While you may find them in some restaurants they are more like home cooking.

Recently I was shopping at my Asian seafood store. The shop lady has this salted vegetable that caught my eye each time I shop there. Problem is each package are bigger than I want to keep at home. It is a preserved root vegetable called dai tao choy 大頭菜 - translates as big head vegetable. It is really just a kind of big turnip called kohlrabi preserved in a lot of salt. The thought of using it to make a very savory dish nudged me to buy a 2.25 lb package.

this is a half of salted kohlrabi weight in at 2.25 lb

Sunday, October 28, 2012

steamed monkfish

I at times see this fish and for the longest time curious how it taste. I think it is a small monkfish. The Asian grocery stores rarely have them. They are fresh but not live. I decide to give one a try.
i brought it home and clean it myself - it is now ready to go into a steamer

steel coatrack

I have been wanting an upright coatrack a very long time. To my amazement it is impossible to find an acceptable one that looks good and functional here in the US.

I decided to make my own. I want one that can hold many jackets or coats. It must be stable. I set out to design a simple one that has the form follows function attributes.

takoyaki たこ焼き

I have been digging my food photographs. I found these from 2 years ago making takoyaki たこ焼きfor the first time. It all started from my shopping at the local Korean supermarket H-Mart. I came across this very inexpensive cast iron takoyaki mold. I snapped it up, and bought the needed ingredients to give it a try.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

stir fry of grouper and celery - 斑片炒西芹

If you are a foodie that like Chinese food you would enjoy the endless variety of casual entrées called 少菜.They are affordable and represents some of the best of Chinese cooking.

This dish is very simple. It is made with grouper and celery. Like most casual entrées 少菜 it is intended to be eaten with a bowl of white rice.
stir fry of grouper and celery - 斑片炒西芹

chinese fluffy noodle 伊麵

Rice and wheat both are the most important staples of Chinese (as well as many Asian cultures) diet. Rice consumption is higher in the south while wheat are consumed more in the north. China has countless variety of noodles made of different grains including wheat, rice, and even beans.

In this post I made dishes with a fluffy wheat noodle. In Chinese it is called 伊麵 (pronounced as yie mein). This noodle is made with wheat flour and baking powder and then deep fried to give it a very airy texture. Because of the additional steps by weight it is more expensive than other noodles.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

brunnhilde's fire extinguisher

Ever since I bought Brunnhilde there is this mystery bracket on the base of the driver seat by the door.

I was quite sure it is for mounting a fire extinguisher. I have been wanting to find a good size fire extinguisher with a compatible bracket awhile. Recently shopping at Costco I found this 5lb ABC extinguisher on sale. I have considered buying it in the past and the discount just push me to make the purchase decision.

high cuisine - shark fin 魚翅

Shark fin has been used as ingredient in luxury dishes in Chinese haute cuisine. It was served in the most special occasions such as wedding banquets and meals in the imperial palaces. During my youth growing up in Hong Kong my parents would bring us to wedding banquets of our friends and relatives. It was only in these special occasions where dishes with shark fins were served. Typically the shark fins are prepared as a viscous and tasty soup. This soup is most often served among the 10 or so entrees during a banquet.
shark fin photo from wikipedia
a very large shark fin on display at a shark fin soup restaurant in the Tokyo Station

Thursday, October 11, 2012

chinese casual entrées 少菜

In Chines cuisine the verity of dishes that good eateries serve typically are called 少菜, translates as small dish. A more accurate translation would be casual entrées. They are meant to be good and affordable. These are what you would order when you go out to a restaurant with your friends or family. You would order many dishes of 少菜 and shares with your company - often eaten with a bowl of "steamed" rice and drinks.

Most good restaurants would have their list of signature 少菜 dishes they do well. The regular customers know which are. Also the dishes rotates with the season and the availability of the ingredients. Very often there are hand written signs on the walls listing the current in-season dishes.

seasonal dish of  少菜 posted on the wall - this is a very fancy one; most would not have a picture frame

 a couple of dishes of 少菜

singerpore fried rice noodles 星州炒米

Here is more dish from old photos. Singerpore fried rice noodles 星州炒米 is a popular one dish meal among the foodies during lunch in a Cantonese restaurant. It is one of few Cantonese dishes that use hot curry powder which imparts the yellowish color to the dish.

While it is a relatively easy dish to make, my experience of it in most North American restaurant had always been subpar. Most would short change you on the ingredients and you ended up with a greasy dish with very little meat to show for.

braised ham hock

I have been going through some of my older photographs and found dishes that I have not made for a long time. This including many I only made once.
a couple pieces of raw ham hock - years ago one cannot find raw ham hock even in asian stores here

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

so much singing

I forgot where I read about an United States past president was treated to a Wagner's opera. While he enjoyed the overtures he had a hard time putting up with most of the opera which involves a lot of singing. His remarked something to this effect - the music was great, only if there isn't so much singing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

photo diary - hong kong 香港 2008, part 2

This is the continuation of the photo diary of my trip to Hong Kong in early winter of 2008. There are so many photos I want to post and I have to make hard choices. Many evoke my nostalgia of my growing up there.

I board a bus as soon as I got off the airplane. I chose the bus instead of the much faster subway train because I could not wait to see the city en route to my cheap hotel in Mong Kok in the Kowloon peninsula.

as in my youth i went straight to the front seats in the upper deck of a double-decker bus

home made dimsum 點心

Very few would want to make dimsum at home. Traditionally dimsum are small dishes of food one eats at a Chinese restaurant in the morning along with copious amount of tea. This morning meal is called 飲茶 (pronounced as yum cha), which translates as drinking tea. Dimsum comes from 2 Chinese words dim and  sum 心, meaning touches one's heart. While individually most dimsum dishes are not too hard to make, making a verity for a morning tea is too much trouble an undertaking unless you have a very big family.

sewer gas odor - trouble shooting, part 2

In my continued quest to find the source of the elusive sewer gas odor in Tatyana I finally have time to conduct a more thorough investigation. One thing I had wanted to do is to check he integrity of the vent connections of the two waste water storage tanks. Unfortunately due to the very compact packaging of the Westfalia design most of the connections can not readily be inspected visually. One prime suspect of the odor the vent tube plumbing system from the two waste water storage tanks on their way to the roof top vent port en route behind the plywood cabinetry. Most of these space are not visible without employing an inspection camera designed to see tight spaces.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

belgian waffles

I almost forget there is a package of Belgian waffles I bought at Trader Joe's. I seldom eat sweets and this including sweet dishes. I saw the Belgian waffles in Trader Joe's flyer that came in my mail one day. What piqued my interest was it is made in Belgian. I decided to pick one up while shopping in the store.

pan seared scallops

Today I planned my trip in the morning. I went to UPS store to ship some used part removed from Tatyana which I was able to sell online. I also went to Costco to return a Samsung security DVR which I was not satisfied. Instead of taking the Mini I took Tatyana so when I return home, the engine oil would be hot to ease the engine oil change. A well-laid plan to start the

I arrived to Costco when it just open. I can do the shopping quickly and avoid the late saturday morning traffic returning home too.

A surprise fine at Costco are these Italian crystal wine glasses - 8 for $24 works out to be only $3 dollars each. I have been wanting some crystal wine glasses a long time but had been unwilling to pay $10 or more each.
italian crystal wine glass

filters for brunnhilde - part 2

Today I set out to change the engine oil and air filter on Brunnhilde. Recently Napa Automotive Supply has Mobil 1 synthetic oil on sale for $5.98 a quart. This is about $0.50 cheaper than the lowest retail price. I stocked up 24 quarts enough for more than 2 oil changes.

Brunnhilde has engine oil capacity of 10 quarts (with filter change). My existing oil catcher pan is way too small so I bought this big one at Walmart. While it is not ideal, at ~$8.90 it is less than other automotive supply stores charge.

new oil catcher pan from walmart

Friday, September 21, 2012

matured coconut

This is a companion post to the young coconut that I wrote a while back. Growing up in Hong Kong one often saw street vendor that sell coconut meat and coconut water in the summer. For 50 cents you get a piece of freshly cut piece of coconut flesh from a mature coconut. You can also buy a glass of coconut water.
matured coconut (left) and young coconut (right)

I recently bought a mature coconut for the first time. Unlike young coconut a mature coconut is much more difficult to tackle.

manhole covers

In my trips to Japan I developed a habit of capturing images of manholes. To me they are the most overlooked and under-appreciated beauty of everyday objects. Of all I think the ones in Japan are most prolific and artistic.

wonton noodle 雲吞麵

You can find places that serve wonton noodle soup in any Chinatowns in most north American cities. Finding a good and authentic bowl is next to impossible. In my experience the best one can be found in Toronto and Richmond in Canada, only if you have knowledge or have done copious amount of web research well in advance. There may be only a handful of them that serve a good bowl.

photo diary - hong kong 香港 2010, part 1

In 2010 winter I took a trip to Asia that lasted over 3 months. Amongst the countries including China, Japan, and Thailand. I visited many cities in these countries including Honk Kong and Macau which are special administrative zones.

This is my second trip to Hong Kong since I left it in my youth emigrated to North America.

dusk at vactoria harbour

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

brunnhilde's power window

During the last trip home from the Columbia River Gorge Brunnhilde's driver side door power window failed. I was not going to pay the exhaubitant price of $250 of the entire window regulator assembly because Mecedes' cheesy design of the flimsy plastic slider. Automakers should know very well the stress imparted on the power window components after decades of building vehicles with power windows. It is unbelievable that Mecedes' engineer managed to screw this up, and yet have the audacity to gouge the customer with a $250 replacement assembly.

yep - this flimsy plastic slider fail leads to a $250 replacement regulator!
Most Sprinter owner who encounter the same failure opts for a home made solution which involves fashion a replacement plastic slider out of plastic closet wheel. I consider doing same but decided against it due to concern of it's reliability in extreme low ambient temperature.

Friday, September 14, 2012

chill is in the air

The summer has just flew by. This year is my return to to boardsailing after a 7-year hiatus. When I went sailing the first day, I could hardly sail a couple of tacks because I was so out of shape and the disuse of the muscles groups. I was quite worry that I would be unable to resume the sport with my very sinky 35-liter board. 

espresso machine repairs

Like most people who enjoy coffee, I used to pay relatively little attention to how to make a good cup of coffee. Over the years I have owned and worn out many automatic drip coffee makers, grinders, and a $99 espresso maker. I would at times buy middle of the road whole beans and grind them just before brewing. I have worn out a Braun burr grinder in the process. Most of my drip coffee makers were also Braun. When I am camping I would make drip coffee manually with a simple pour over filter. The coffee were drinkable, but never outstanding but often better than most decent restaurants serve after a meal (yes they are typically less than acceptable given how much they charge).

About 5 years ago I begun to look for a better quality espresso maker. Like many would be semi-serious espresso DIY drinkers I was first drawn to a pair of low price Italian entry level machine combo.

rancilio silvia
rancilio rocky grinder

Thursday, September 13, 2012

filters for brunnhilde

I have been wanting to change the engine oil for Brunnhilde quite some time now. What kept me from the maintenance work is figuring which brand of OEM filters to buy. While there are reputable manufacturers of after market "OE quality" parts, they qualities are not all equal. Each time I went shopping on the web the availability of different brands changes. Many list a number of possible brands so what you get is a crapshoot.

Eventually I decided not to waste more time and ordered from a vendor that seems likely to delivery what I expect. That requires reading between the line of the descriptions very carefully - something I do quite well from my professional experience.

the content costs over $200 USD

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

brunnhilde's shower - part 2

I put the rest the playing with the bath shower head in Brunnhilde after testing to show it is an inferior design to the exterior shower head that also comes with the vehicle.

I later realize I could swap just the shower head/arm without swapping the hoses. Swapping the hoses would require complete removal of the bath sink cabinet which is a major undertaking because one have to re-caulk the sink when done. I really want to make this improvement for the inside bath. The exterior shower is less important especially autumn is approaching.

I prefer the much cleaner design of the exterior shower head made by Rada. It feel much more supple in ones hand - I believe some the main arm is cast alloy instead of plastic.

the stock one in the bath is just too big and ugly for the compact sink

brunnhilde's shower

I hope the choice of the title does not attract the wrong crowd to the post and be disappointed. I have noticed some dubious referencing sites that sent traffic to my other post brunnhilde's new struts. You just never know the wonders with google's search engine...

There is no skin except those of my hands in this post so if you are disappointed please read no further :-)

One chronic thing that bug me it the dual purpose shower head/sink faucet in the bath. When I first acquire Brunnhilde the shower hose cannot retract back into the sink faucet's mixer valve to use in the sink. The problem is cause by the shower hose binding in the very tight space behind the sink cabinet assembly.

the flexible hose cannot be retracted into the mixer valve assembly

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

salmon - my other repertoires

Found these photos from 2 years ago on my venture to make smoke salmon and lox. I did a quick research on the web and just did it after reading the fundamentals.

smoked salmon with goat cheese

Sunday, September 2, 2012

apple popularized white cars

If you are not living under a rock you probably came across in the recent news that a BMW designer credits the recent American car buyers choosing white more than ever is largely due to the influence of Apple's product design.

Somewhat counter intuitive white is the best color to reveal the subtle contours of a 3 dimensional object. Evidently it is the preferred color in Japan for prototype styling design. When I designed my kitchen, I chose the high gloss white for the cabinet finish. I spent countless hours prototyping the projecting of the counter top front under all lighting conditions to determine a satisfactory amount.

To avoid the undesirable shadow cast by the overhanging counter top (at different lighting conditions) onto the gloss white cabinet finish I chose a minute 1/4" projection (overhang).

ventilation fan - preliminary version

This is a iterative step in the making of a ventilation fan for Tatyana. The purpose of the fan is to reduce the cabin temperature from solar gain when the vehicle is parked in the sun.

The three previous posts related to this:
james cook enhancement - part 3
the proof is in the pudding
intelligent venting fan

A lot of owners of this camper replaced the stock bath skylight with the very popular Fan-Tastic Vent. I personally like the stock skylight. I see no downside with it's non-motorized design. I also like the retractable fly screen as well as the high quality design and construction.

The goals of my home-made ventilation fan are:
  • very low power consumption
  • very low noise
  • does not involve permanent alteration
  • easy to deploy and stowable when not in use