Saturday, June 16, 2012

rip - rnw classical

Today is a very sad day. I found out that after years of blood letting, RNW Classical has ceased broadcasting as of May 31 now that the budget axe has fallen.

I first started listening to weekly Live at the Concertgebouw more than 15 years ago through my local PBS classical affiliate in USA. Over time my station dropped it for budget reason. It disappeared on my local station 5 years ago.  A year or so ago I discovered I could listen to the program via online streaming from RNW's website and I was elated.

The budget cut has been looming for many years and finally RNW Classical has ceased to exist except in the collective memory of the listeners.

Live at the Concertgebouw has been my most favorite program for years where it covered the most diverse performances with musicians and artists worldwide.

Hans Haffmans is the best classical broadcast program host. I always listen with great interest of his well crafted and informed presentation even with pieces I did not like.

For more detail please follow this link The End of RNW Classical

Friday, June 15, 2012

shaojiu 燒酒

If you are interested in Chinese cuisine you should experiencing the liquor of China. They are called shaojiu 燒酒 (liquor that burns) or baijiu 白酒 (white liquor). These liquor are very similar to Japanese shochu, and the Korean soju but are much more potent.

China has countless variety of these liquor from different regions. Amongst them the most famous is the Maotai 茅台 that was made famous (and expensive) by Nixon's visit to China circa 1972.

Today Maotai 茅台 sold for about $200 USD here and 25% to 50% more in China. There are complaints in China the high officials and wealthy businessmen who dine and wine not on their own dimes has driven this liquor to unreachable by common folks. Before Nixon's visit while it is well regarded, the price was significantly more affordable. It is now a status symbol for luxury dinning there, and for export. Maotai 茅台 is a brand which distills in Guizhou 貴州. Because of the inflated high price informed consumers would find brands from other distillers at fractions of the price with very similar taste and profile.

street food in muslim quarter, xian

a must see/eat if you visit xian, china which is famous for the terracotta warrior burial sites in addition to many historic sites of some chinese dynasties

ramen 拉麵 in japan

it is a compilation of footage of video from my trips to Japan

The best I had was in Nikko 曰光 (translates as sun light) Japan, which is the long segment in the beginning of the video. I arrived at this small town circa 10pm. I was starving after the slow train ride from Tokyo and was looking for just a quick bite to eat. There were no more than 3 shops that was still open on the main street - a 7/11 store (convenient store) a dive bar, and this ramen joint with no customer. I reluctantly walked in and it turned out to be the best ramen experience I had in Japan. Never judge the book by the cover.

We visited the Ramen Museum in Yokohama. I set out to have very low expectations thinking it is just a tourist trap. It exceeded my expectations and more. We went in around lunch hour and ate what our stomach could hold, then went to tour Yokohama. We return again at dinner time and in all we tasted 5-6 different ramen and tsukemen (dipping ramen). Despite the popularity with tourist, most of the ramen stores in here kept up with the quality and integrity. There were a lot of Japanese domestic tourists amongst the international ones. a map showing different regional style of ramen in japan


just a few different versions of seafood paella

these are made in a small pans for 1 and 2 person serving

fried tofu

This is one very easy to make snack or as a side dish to accompany other dishes. This is a dish that I just improvised one day and tweaked the method over time.

In the picture it accompanies mak kimchi and slow braised beef shank.

Whenever I go to my neighborhood Korean grocery store I would pick up a pack of fresh tofu. The store I shop have them for $2.99 which consists of 2 big pieces of medium firm tofu. I have never weight them but it is probably 2 lb. Unlike the common store bought mass produced ones that packed in a seal plastic package these are made locally by a small supplier. They are much better than the famalier mass produce ones and much tastier. These are the best I found in all my local Asian stores.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I had been very disappointed with the quality of the pastrami that I can find in my town in the NW without paying an arm and a leg for it. I finally decided that given where I live the only solution is to take the matter into my own hands. Having no experience in making it I did a bit of research on the web. I collected the basic idea and just plunged in with both feet - few ever die because of culinary bravery. I invested in a low cost smoker.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

hibachi for asian skewer 串燒

It has been a long time since I want to procure a hibachi for making Asian style skewers. It is amazing how difficult it is to find one for this purpose in the US. I had consider bringing one back while visiting the cookware street in Asakusa near Tokyo.

morning glory with shrimp paste 虾酱通菜

I recently came across this interesting purpose made simple tool while grocery shopping in one of my regular Asian store. Intrigued by it's function I asked the shop lady and she just reply dryly it is for slicing a vegetable. She adds that I wouldn't know. She must had a bad morning that day.

Seeing it is from Thailand I immediately knew it is for slicing the hollow stems of a Asian leaf vegetable often called morning glory here. It is 通菜 in Chinese which translates as hollow vegetable because of it's hollow stems. It is very seasonal and does not keep well even in the fridge. Nearly all Asian cultures eat it and there are many ways of preparing it. A common favorite is to stir fry it with shrimp paste 虾酱 or fish sauce or with both. One also add lots of chopped garlic. Thai like some hot pepper for heat.

The tool comes in a quaint package so quintessential of many classic Thai kitchenware. The tool is inside a plastic storage housing. All for a mere $1.99.

broiled fresh scallops

I regularly visit an Asian seafood joint across town. I have been shopping there for over 10 years and their business has steadily grew. Amongst the seasonal items that I look for and hope to encounter is fresh scallops in shell. It is significantly more expensive than the high grade large one that has been cleaned. However what make the fresh one so much better is the freshness, and that you eat not just the muscle, but also the other edible parts.

James Cook Enhancements - part 2

The unwritten rule of blogging is one generally don't post more than one blog a day. Rules are created to be broken and so I do as there is just so much I want to catch up. Strike the iron while it is red hot so here is part 2 of the, hopefully more improvements to the JC.

For a traveling habitat I believe in keeping it shipshape as in a seaworthy sailboat I am breaking my rule of not naming my vehicles. I named her Tatyana as in nautical practice.

japanese noren

I always visit the Japantown whenever I go to San Francisco. Soko hardware store is my must stop. I also visit many shops in the shopping center with the Peace Pagoda. I can easily lost myself shopping there a whole day. This time amongst the articles of delight I found is noren (entry curtain) intended for home. Later I had an eureka moment - why not use it as a privacy curtain for Tatyana?

I installed some snaps and up it went. It is great when I want to keep the door open to for the fresh air and yet want a bit of privacy.

James Cook Enhancements - part 1

rear view camera

It became apparent once I took procession of the vehicle that a rear view camera is a must. I chose a semi professional unit from It is more expensive but comes with a better quality camera and no-nonsense commercial quality cable harness long enough to span the great length of the James Cook from the high mounted 3rd stop light to the windscreen.

My rule of any upgrade is to minimized permanent alteration to the vehicle where possible. An aluminum mounting plate was fabricated for the rear camera so no additional holes was required to mount it.

As it turned out the mounting location of the camera is so high it is difficult to aim the camera to cover the traffic while driving and the close quarter for parallel parking. I added a second camera onto the rear license plate for close-quarter parking. The latter is just a low cost camera costs circa $25 from Amazon. Surprisingly it performs above my expectation given such low price.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

new camper

It is a new-to-me camper. It is a Westfalia James Cook built onto a Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis. The completed camper was imported by Airstream into the United States in 2005. Airstream contribution is to make certain changes to the camper for the American market to meet the required certifications. Unfortunately there are a number of misguided changes that are evidently to cater to the tastes and preferences of the RV buyers in the US. Only 250 was ever imported into this country.

Most folks would call it RV but I prefer to call it a camper. I found it in Southern California in the spring of 2012. The photo was taken after I driven it back and awaiting the processing of the out of state title and registrations.

day one

Thanks for visiting my blog. Today is the first day of my blogging. The choice of the title - there is no particular significance. It is one of many I tried and is available. It just happens it resembles the translated name of one of my favorite movies - 飲食男女飲食男女 in Chinese refers to common folks who enjoy good food and drink and the sociocultural experience.

The beginning of a blog is most difficult until one settles into a groove. Here are a few old photos to kick things off to a start.