Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chili lime fried rice

What do you do when life gives you leftover rice? Make fried rice of course!

I tried out Michael’s family’s recipe recently because it sounded quite interesting and something I haven’t tasted before. Instead of my usual ginger, garlic, and scallion, it has a tomato base and is topped with fresh lime juice. Sounds yummy already, right?

Chili lime fried rice
3-4cups cooked white rice (preferably not freshly cooked)
2 hot peppers, chopped
1 bundle of scallion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 package Chinese sausage, diced
4 eggs, beaten
3 tbs cooking oil 
3-4tbs Maggi seasoning or dark soy sauce
3 tbs Chiu Chow chili oil (or chili oil of your choice, but this is pure crack)
1 tsp sesame oil
3 limes, cut into wedges
  1. Heat cooking oil with garlic, hot peppers, and scallion. Once browned, throw in tomatoes and stir lightly until stew-like.
  2. Add in sausage and rice. Mix well.
  3. Once rice is sizzling, add the Maggi/soy sauce and chili oil. Mix until the colors are even.
  4. Then fold in the eggs until thoroughly cooked (unless you prefer your fried rice a bit wet, then remove from heat earlier).
  5. Drizzle on the sesame oil and stir fry until crispy.
  6. Serve with extra chili oil and fresh limes. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Berry Picking at Smolak Farms

Over the weekend, I forwent all my beach plans for something more exciting: berry picking. I'm a seasoned apple picker, but I must admit that I've never dabbled with fresh berries before. And to be honest, I just really wanted to pet the llamas and cows that Smolak's website boasts about.

Upon arriving at the farm after a scenic drive through North Andover, Michael and I stepped out onto a green field overlooking a pond scattered with geese and rows of bushes and trees sunbathing under fluffy clouds in the crystal blue sky. We gathered some baskets and containers at the farm stand and headed first to the plum and peach trees.

It still seemed a bit early on in the season for the stone fruits, but we got lucky and got a few ripe peaches. I swear few things feel better than eating freshly picked fruit. So needless to say, my first bite into a freshly picked raspberry was wonderfully delightful. It was so sweet and juicy that it erased all my fears of picking a cold and sour raspberry out of my fridge. But dude, raspberry picking is NO joke. I don’t know if raspberry bushes are usually this sparse or if the other pickers did a really thorough job before us, but man it was some back breaking work! Well, okay, I exaggerate; I probably picked a total of a dozen raspberries because I was too intimidated by the prevalent insect presence to be more aggressive about it. (The berries are sweet, man!) Blueberries on the other hand were a lot more pleasant to pick. They grew in much larger clusters and there were a lot less bugs meandering around their bushes, so I was much bolder in my blueberry picking efforts.

After berry picking, we finally got to visit the farm animals! They have an interesting collection of different types of foul, not to mention they have pheasants wandering around the farm, various goats, a big cow, and a few types of llamas. Animals are hilarious. The chickens were all crowding underneath a structure to stay in the shade and one of the giant llamas was just… chilling camouflaged against the wooden fence. Now I know I said that few things feel better than eating freshly picked fruit, but few things actually feel better than having an animal eat out of your hand. Maybe it’s just me, but having a goat or cow lick the feeding pellets out of my palm just slaps a dumb smile on my face. It was charming feeding the greedy goats, but having a cow stick its massive tongue through the fence to get to you is simply breathtaking.

After a morning of berry picking in the sun, we enjoyed some lunch at Smolak. I got a chicken salad sandwich on dill bread, which I must recommend to everyone if it is ever a choice. It was a bit tangy, on the dense side, and completely fresh. However, the highlight of my lunch break was the raspberry sundae from Treadwell Ice Cream. Everyone was getting the black raspberry flavor, but the vanilla ice cream with fresh raspberry syrup and a mountain of whipped cream was divine. I’m definitely salivating thinking about it right now.

Well, our visit to Smolak was definitely a fruitful one! We left with two containers filled with berries and a handful of peaches… which we all finished by the next day. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chuang Yen Monastery

The Bodhi (wisdom) Path

For the past few summers, I have spent quite a few weekends in upstate New York at Chuang Yen Monastery. Built and maintained by the Buddhist Association of the United States, CYM hosts an annual summer camp that invites people of all ages (well, anyone over the age of 7) to participate in a 5-day retreat filled with fun, games, and lectures on Buddhism. Campers spend their days waking up at 5am to sing songs with monks, prepare for elaborate skit performances, and of course, eat lots of vegetarian food.

For those of you who are direly attached to meat, let me explain to you that eating their carefully prepared vegetarian meals do not leave you craving a juicy burger or craving anything, really. Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's just the excitement of camp, but you just want to eat it all, and I'm always left quite satisfied (though after 3 days, I did start to physically feel the lack of protein --just soy doesn't cut if for me). The kitchen staff plus a band of volunteers wake up even earlier than campers to make breakfast preparation and spend the rest of their day working on lunch and dinner for the 200+ campers. And for camp, they go all out.

On a normal weekend, you can get a vegetarian lunch with a donation of $6 that will most likely consist of rice, tofu, vegetables, and a light soup. During camp, they have vegetarian nuggets, veggie burgers, vegetarian drumsticks, and basically LOTS of mock meat. Oh, they get creative! Here are some photos (it's cafeteria style, so no pretty plate presentations) of what I got to enjoy earlier this month. I highly encourage everyone to visit, it's a very serene and beautiful site. I can't wait to visit again!

the outdoor kitchen area: GIANT WOKS

Cold sesame noodles with a side of broccoli and a "chicken" drumstick

"Fish" balls and daikon radish with minced "pork" and tofu over rice

Salted vegetable "pork" bun, stir fry root vegetablesm and sauteed greens

Tofu burger, "chicken" nuggets, fried "meat"balls, and french fries
Crispy "duck," bean sprouts, and corn on the cob with rice

Inside the Great Buddha Hall

Chuang Yen Monastery
2020 Route 301
Carmel, NY 10512

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao

After pulling some major strings, I got myself into a private taste testing at the soon to be opened Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao on Main Street Flushing. (Just kidding, my good family friend is opening his new restaurant soon, and wanted to give it a test run.) If you've been reading my blogposts for some time, you know I love me some xiao long baos/steamed soup dumplings (456, Gourmet Dumpling House, Dumpling Cafe). So I obviously jumped at the chance to sample some at a new restaurant in a prime location.

Since it was a tasting, there was a limited selection available that afternoon. We started with scallion pancakes, which were made thin and crispy, as they should be. We had some xiao long baos next, and to my surprise, they were quite hefty! Freshly steamed and overflowing with juice, there is no skimping out on the soup at this joint!
The same can be said about the super delicious pan fried dumplings. They were seared to a nice golden brown, the skin was a proper thickness and texture, and the best part was the juiciness of the meat when you bite into them. What a pleasant surprise. I definitely need some more of those soon. On the same level were the pan fried pork buns. They were sprinkled with raw scallion, which gave them an extra delightful bite.

Other things to try:
- dumplings in soup: the dumplings are filled with succulent shrimp and the broth is savory and light
- sticky rice dumplings: these are surprisingly hard to come by nowadays, so I was really excited to have some!
- vegetable buns: the dough is kneaded in house, so these are a must!
- Jasmine milk tea shake with boba: very fragrant Jasmine shake that's not too sweet... just right for me.

As I mentioned, they're located on Main Street right next to Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet, so definitely check them out now at their Facebook page, and then check them out after their grand opening on August 1st!

Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao
59-16 Main Street
Flushing, New York 11355

Friday, July 13, 2012

St. Mark's: Paul's and Pommes Frites

My cousin Thomas is living with us in the city for the summer, and we decided to bring him to some local favorites to get him more acquainted with Manhattan (he's from Westchester --not too far away). On Tuesday night, we went down to St. Marks to grab some burgers... and fries on the side.

Paul's "Da Burger Joint" has been around in New York as long as I have, and they stick to the basics. It's a simple thick 8 ounce ground griddle cooked sirloin burger on a standard bun with standard toppings. It's juicy, it's fatty, it's filling, and it's cheap. I had the signature Saint Mark's cheeseburger with mushrooms and fried onions, and my cousin Thomas chose his own toppings and went for a bold bacon cheeseburger with a fried egg. Do not go here if you're looking or a fancy haute burger with artisan cheeses and Kobe beef. This is a no fuss greasy hamburger that pairs perfectly with a thick vanilla (or black and white) milkshake.

Saint Mark's Burger

Beef burger with bacon, fried egg, onions, lettuce, and mayo on the side

Paul's "Da Burger Joint"
131 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003

After the burgers, we had fries down the block. Yes, it was REALLY hard to hold off the fries until after the burger. Pommes Frites has a very simple menu consisting of only authentic Belgian fries with a long list of sauces. They're thick cut double fried fries that are then tossed in salt shower, and trust me, I had to look away from the cooking process to soothe my cringing nutrition education. We all shared a regular sized fries (which was just enough for the 4 of us after some whopping burgers) with black truffle mayonnaise and a lot of ketchup. The mayo was a bit too salty for me to thoroughly enjoy the truffle flavor, but I really want to go back to try their poutine!

Pomme Frites
123 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003

--I found this out afterwards, but Friday 7/13/12 was National FRENCH FRY DAY! YAY! POMMES FRITES!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I was really craving a grilled cheese on Saturday morning, so my brother and I decided to grab brunch at Artisanal, our neighborhood French bistro and fromagerie. However, they are now only open for brunch on Sundays, so we ended up heading to another neighborhood French bistro, Le Halles. But I am still fantasizing about a grilled cheese, so I'm sharing with you now the last brunch I had at Artisanal.

My mom ordered the petite plateaux, which came with an assortment of four cheeses, cured meat, sliced fruits and nuts. Artisanal is known for their premium cheese selection, and I mean hey, they even have LA CAVE specifically for cheese storage (or a small dinner party), so I definitely recommend getting anything cheese related here (do you... fondue?).

My brother got the fish and frites, which was random, but I must say that their frites are solid. Crispy French fried goodness.

I indulged with the Frenchie, a grilled cheese with brie, mushrooms, and black truffle. I had the soup/salad/sandwich combo, so I also got a fish soup, which is one of my favorites. I’m all for grilled cheeses and tomato soups, but this was a combination that I’d go for again.
If you're looking for a classy French bistro that isn't always unnecessarily packed like Balthazar, then this is the place for you. I've been here for dinner a few times, including for Christmas Eve, and their seafood tower and fondue selections are delectable.

Come to think of it, I think I'll go for a grilled cheese and tomato soup right now. Too bad I'm not near Artisanal!

Petite plateaux
Fish and frites
The Frenchie with organic greens and fish soup

2 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Friday, July 6, 2012


Eli Zabar's E.A.T. on the Upper East Side is a staple for deli eats and brunch. I went with my grandmother and brother one very rainy morning, and we enjoyed a very comfortable meal, watching pedestrians dodge the unexpected storm.

Though I went to school a few blocks away from E.A.T. and passed by every morning during my commute, I've never actually been inside. Recently, my mom told me that she went there for breakfast and enjoyed their bread selection and jam. She said it was comparable to Le Pain and she even preferred E.A.T.'s. I thought that was quite a bold statement, but when my brother showed me photos of his ham and eggs with sliced bagels, I figured I had to go try for myself.

I had the ratatouille omelette and a grapefruit half, and my brother had the fried eggs and ham with a plain bagel on the side. We also had an order of whitefish salad, which I was a huge fan of, and we even had to order additional bagels to eat it with.

They also have a take out/grocery area that has a wide selection of salads, seafoods, meats, desserts, and a lot more other prepared foods by the pint or pound, and I am very tempted to try one of their picnic packages!

The food is simple, comforting, and a bit overpriced, but it's a solid place for brunch, and I hear their high stacked lunch sandwiches are a must-try!

1064 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10028