Friday, June 22, 2012

iDevices in James Cook

Trying to save a few dollars I improvised my old iPhone 3GS mount to use for my 4S. The iPhone 4S fits in the 3GS mount loosely because of the smaller outline. It is only held there by gravity. It all went very well on my trip until I hit a big bump in San Francisco. The iPhone went flying and landed on the floor with the cable attached. I thought to myself this is penny wise and pound foolish. I could have destroy the fragile connector.

old 3GS-com-4S iPhone mount I improvised - screwed on a piece of wood which inserted into the coin compartment

I ordered a iPhone 4 mount by RAM  when I got home. It arrived, with minor assembly required.

food tastes better in japanese china

In my travel one eating experience that I enjoy most is izakayas 居酒屋 in Japan. Modern izakayas are places where businessmen hands out after work with their colleagues or customers. Often bonds and friendships are forged over beers or sakes between businessmen. They are similar to brew pubs in Western countries. However what set them apart is they all serves very delicious small plate of snacks. the variety of snacks they serve are countless depends on what the izakaya specializes. In the West the Spanish tapas bars probably resemble the modern day izakayas the most.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

steam pork belly with salted radish leaves 梅菜扣肉

If your idea of Chinese food is PF Chang's or Happy Panda this dish is probably not for you.

This is a classic folk dish and many Chinese lives in the West craves it. It is a favorite dish of even my young Canadian born nephew. I had not attempt to make it until recently fearing the challenge of finding good salted radish leaves. It has become quite easy to find now.

梅菜扣肉 translates as salted radish leaves 梅菜 with interlocking meat 扣肉. I think the interlocking meat comes from how the slices of pork belly is arrange in a tight pack.

pineapple doing headstand

A few months ago I bought my first whole pineapple the first time. I could tell it is not quite ripe. Before cutting into it I did a bit a research to see if it would ripe more if I keep it a bit.

There is a lot of disinformation on the web. My conclusion is it would. Also to promote the sugar evenly distributed instead just settling on the bottom, you want to keep it upside down. It had sat long enough right side up since harvest right?

The good thing about buying a whole one and skin it yourself is you waste very little compare the sloppy store machine cut. I like the different textures and sweetness of the different parts and some of the nice part has been cut off in the store bought. A very sharp knife helps.

springrolls 春卷

Most Asian cultures have a version or more of this. It is quite easy to make. I am eating a 3rd batch (the next morning) of this while I write this - eat your heart out.

I seldom adhere to a recipe. I usually use what I have in the fridge and freezer. This one has pork, shrimp, dried shitake mushroom, Asian chives, and garlic.

I use a food processor to chop the garlic, pork, and shrimp. I normally prefer to use a meat grinder because it yields more consistent texture instead of pulverizing the ingredients. I hand chop the chives.

I would like some bamboo shoot in it but I don't have them on hand.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

home roast espresso

roasted with monkey blend from Sweet Maria

a 20 lb bag green beans

This is a good roast. I don't have a roaster. I just use a pot and roast over a gas stove. Very easy to clean and no equipment to maintain.

a double shot espresso - there was more crema before I stirred it with the spoon
i now seldom make "milk drinks" as the milk tends to get in the way of the entire flavor profile of the coffee - my latte art skill is piss poor, but no one else can pour this beautiful dandelion like me

chinese street food bowl

This is one of my favorite bowls. Until I found this most of my bowls for noodle and soup are the common ones you find in most Asian store. They are uninspiring, mass-produced to mimic the traditional design but the poor quality gives them away.

paris - a visual diary

Paris June 2010 - took a sleeper train from Berlin overnight and arrived at Paris the next morning. I was glad I changed my original itinerary of flying and took the overnight train instead.

I had a private cabin with 2 beds all to myself. In the morning just before arriving at Paris the train conductor served a light breakfast to the room. The cost is on par to a night in a modest hotel and the airline ticket. One of the best last minute travel decision I'd ever made.

The video was shot free hand in run-and-gun fashion on a Canon 7d with a width range zoom lens.

articles of delight - korean butane burner

I caught my eyes in my local Korean supermarket (H-Mart) one day. It stood out because of it Korean industrial traits with it's all-business design. It is made in Korea.

It uses the Asian butane bottles you bought for the butane stove that most Asian families have. It put out a flame with ferocity that rivals the flame-throwers US Marines used to drive the stubborn Japanese soldiers from the bunkers in WWII.

Great for quickly burning hairs off the pig ears you just bought - or for lightly charring the outside of the sushi grade hamachi you want to impress your in-laws from the Mid West.

articles of delight - liquid dispensers

I like to cook and one area of my interest is affordable food in Asian countries. Asian cuisines use a large variety of liquid condiments and sauces. Over the years I have bought many dispensers and found what works and what doesn't. Here are some that I enjoy using.

articles of delight - intro

I have been wanting to write about one of my passion of late - finding affordable items that tickle my sensibilities. Most of these items are food and drink related. Others are designed for the machine of habitat. To be clear, I am not a collector. Before my purchase, I usually convince myself I would find useful purpose with the article while it is true some may not get good daily use.

In recent years I am going through a un-design phase. Un-design is a play of word. It is my recent interest in finding note worthy everyday items locally and internationally. For years I have supported the design community. I have invested into my a fair share of well designed household products which would serve a lifetime and more from well respected designers, craftsmen, and architects the like of the Eames, Achille Castiglion, Citterio and countless others..

I do not want to blog about the well-covered object. There are plenty of blogs on the web that write about them. Instead I want to write about the common everyday objects that are not well appreciated. Often these objects can be ubiquitous in some regions of the world, but seldom seen or just not available in others.

I have particular liking for well designed or under-appreciated plastic objects. It may be the subliminal remembrance of the advice Mr. McGuire gave to Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate - "just one word, plastics".

It would be too easy to write about anything that tickles my wimps. To begin I want to set out some ground rules. To qualify, the object must score well in most of the following list of attributes:

  • accessibility - affordable but may be difficult to find
  • functionality - typically strong in utility, or with aesthetic merits that pleasure our senses
  • aesthetics - typically unappreciated or unnoticed in the country I now reside; sometimes they are
  • tacky - may be eyesore in some countries but are ubiquitous in others
  • strong cultural significance - often strong archetype or archetype reference
  • outstanding attributes - with merits deserve mention
  • purpose made - often for a specially purpose specific to the region or culture
  • under appreciate - often in the country of my residence
  • cost to performance ratio - bang for the buck
  • hard to find - often chance find from a trip 
  • merchandising accident - bargain in sales channels with wrong target customers; often found at a great bargain.

To kick start the series I pick these toilet paper-cum-napkin dispensers.

articles of delight - napkin dispenser
If you'd ever visited SE Asia countries you are likely to encounter them. Instead of giving you napkins the places where locals eat may have this on the tables. It dispense toilet paper which is much cheaper than napkins. With these the patrons tend to use much less - the small size of each sheet. People there generally are more frugal and use must less resources per capita than we in the West. I regretted I didn't bring back a few when I left Bangkok.

While in San Francisco and Oakland, CA I seeked them out in Chinatowns there. I was so happy to find them. $3.50 and $1.99 respectively (left to right).

you have to remove the cylindrical form in the center

this one is made in Hong Kong - very rarely one finds a product made there these days

used as a prop in a street side ramen party

I like the minimalistic astute design and form-follows-function trait of this one. The pink one however has cheap chic charms.

Monday, June 18, 2012

chance finds - japanese gas stove

I want to kick start off a series of "articles of delight" with this chance find.

One of my biggest pleasure is shopping for unusual cooking related articles, from purpose-made equipment to plastic container costs less than a bus fare. However I now rarely shop at upscale cookware merchants like William Sonoma. Rather most of my finds are from my travels and grocery shopping.

I encountered this Japanese stove in an Asian supermarket. It is very unusual because at $230 USD it is relatively expensive compare to other much cheaper Asian stoves they normally carry. It is also unusual because it is jet(ted) for natural gas instead of propane which most people would buy for outdoors use.

hibachi 串燒 update

the proof is in the pudding, here is the fruit of the hard work with the home-made hibachi add-on

chicken, pork, and Korean pepper

patience pays

food tastes better outdoors - especially in Asian street food fashion


I don't buy lobster that often - only a few times a year as a rare treat.

I prefer to steam it under high heat to preserve the precious flavor.

piping hot after steaming

This one is served with Napa cabbage and a variety of steamed baby potato. I save the head and legs to make a broth for soup.

grouper 石班

Fresh grouper 石班 is one of the most prized fish in Southern China. It is appreciated for it's fine meat texture and savory clean taste. There are many variety of them in different part of the world. Some tastes better than others and for the finest tasting one, steaming is the best way to preserve the subtle and delicate flavor and texture of the meat.

For a long time live grouper 石班 was impossible to find here in Portland, Oregon. In recent years you may encounter it occasionally in a number of Asian seafood stores here. Often than not the are the not so good eating varieties.

I recently seeked out a fish monger that I had not visited in the past and it has became my supply of live grouper 石班.

This green grouper 青班 would fetch very good price in Southern China like Hong Kong. I brought it home live and clean it myself.  Grouper 石班 is very strong and you have to knock it out by whacking it hard on the head with a cleaver to knock it unconscious before cleaning it.

I always clean fresh fish myself because I don't trust my fish monger to do a thorough job. I also don't like when they have the habit to cut off the fins. Asians prefer to see the whole fish served, not to mention very little of the fish is not eaten.

steam in a steamer.

this is Cantonese style - just julienne scallion, ginger, soy sauce and oil. iPhone included for scale.

nothing is wasted, even the skin and head

Sunday, June 17, 2012

ramen 拉麺 party

All started with the Japanese noren and a few articles of delight I bought back from my trip to San Francisco. I put up the noren on Tatyana's side entry door fancying it as gifting a silk kimono to a mistress. I starting setting my own "set" as a playing installation - set as in a movie production. Before long I got bored and felt what really lacking were a few talents and my brain gears started turning. Why not see if my neighbor's kids want some ramen? An impromptu ramen party took off after a phone call. I cooked up some ramen with the broth and braised pork shoulders I had in the fridge. All from scratch except the Shanghai 上海﹔style noodles I brought back from Oakland Chinatown. The kids learnt to use chopsticks the first time and they inhaled the noodles in short order.