Ginger fried rice

Adapted from smitten kitchen and Ming Tsai

1 lapchang (Chinese sausage), diced (can substitute with 4 strips of cooked bacon)
2 garlic, minced
ginger, minced (equal amount to garlic)
1 leeks, light parts only, thinly sliced
1 bunch scallions, green and white separated, chopped
peanut oil
4 large eggs
sesame oil (for some heat but the same awesome flavor, use hot sesame oil)
2 cups day-old cooked rice (any leftover rice you have)
soy sauce
white pepper



with scallions

Brown the meat (can sub with mushrooms for a vegetarian version), then remove. Stir fry the garlic and ginger in the fat, then add the leeks/scallion whites. Feel free to improvise here with some more vegetables (frozen corn-pea-carrot works well). Cook and then remove. Scramble the eggs with a handful of scallion greens, then remove. Add the cooked rice and mix all together. Add soy sauce, pepper, a tiny bit of sugar, and the eggs and veg back again. Garnish with scallion greens. Taste and serve! Also found a fancier fusion version by Ming that I like, mostly for the spinach and corn addition.



Chicken, bok choy, and shiitake chow mein

Adapted from Ming Tsai

shaoxing wine
oyster sauce
grated ginger
4 scallion whites, save the greens for garnish
black pepper
sambal oelek, or some red chili paste
250 g skinless chicken meat — I prefer the leg/thigh meat
sesame oil
Canola oil to cook
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
6 (shiitake) mushrooms, quartered
chicken stock
4 heads baby bok choy, core out, sliced
200 g blanched and refreshed egg lo mein noodles

FYI, Sambal ulek/oelek is a bright red, thin, and sharp tasting raw chili paste. Didn’t have shiitake so used regular brown button mushrooms, and egg ramen instead of the proper chow mein.


Singapore takeout noodles with cucumber

Adapted from Ming Tsai and smitten kitchen

100 g baby shrimps, without shells, deveined, rinsed and drained
125 g turkey strips
soy sauce
Chinese rice wine
ground white pepper

finely grated ginger, thumb-size
minced garlic (from 1 medium-large clove)

bean sprouts
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 onion, julienned
1/2 cucumber, thinly julienned

200 g dried noodles (rice noodles would be ideal)
2 eggs, scrambled

At the end
toasted sesame oil, plus a splash to loosen noodles
Chinese sesame paste & peanut butter & brown sugar & Chili-garlic paste
2 pinches of Madras curry powder
A handful of chopped fresh herbs, e.g. mint and cilantro, to garnish

I used egg ramen noodles, cooked and rinsed cold. Tried substituting a little miso paste instead of sesame to whisk with the peanut butter. Cooked the vegetables except the cucumber, which I added raw at the end. I lacked bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro, unfortunately!


Chinese sausage and chicken rice hot pot

My most popular Chinese dish! Similar to Steamy Kitchen‘s but directly from Ming Tsai.

3 chicken thighs with the skin, boned and diced
dark soy sauce
cane sugar/honey
sesame oil
scallions, sliced
ginger, grated
1 lapchang (Chinese sausage), cut in disks
3 cups uncooked Chinese long grain rice, washed until water is clear, drained
peanut oil
1.4 L chicken stock

Combine the chicken, soy, sugar, sesame oil, scallions, cornstarch, ginger and sausage and let marinate refrigerated for at least 15 minutes.

IMAG4880IMAG4881In a clay pot (or something that won’t melt in the oven later), combine the rice, salt and peanut oil. On high heat, saute briefly on the stovetop then add the stock to Fuji (3-4 cm above the rice). Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and simmer until the stock has evaporated to the level of the rice. Add the chicken mixture, cover and cook in a preheated oven at 175 deg C for 12 – 15 minutes. Stir well, cover, cook on stovetop at high for only 1 minute then reduce heat to very low. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, then turn heat off. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Tokyo & Taipei 2014

Impressions of island travels…

I was there for the International Ornithological Congress (IOC ), held every four years, and the most intense meeting you can get with birders. Tokyo in August was a strange pick for the meeting, considering how bird-depauperate it is. The previous meeting had been in Campos do Jordão, Brazil, after all. Now that’s a birder’s paradise, I’ll bet. Still, we were in East Asia!

Anyway, Japan was.. interesting. The people are very polite, and even can be helpful (e.g. directions) though they rarely speak English and will just look up directions on their phone. All of the women wore some sort of heels, even just a little bit, and they all seemed overly fashion-conscious. There also seemed to be a lot of unconscious or unspoken mannerisms and customs that people followed that I could not recognize, like how to stand at the subway, or how to walk down the street, or even how to eat food. It’s tough to explain. But all of those rules made it feel.. confining. Restrictive. Like a society of robots — no one would do/say/act differently, even when they were behaving ‘oddly’. For sure, we were odd ones out. Oh, and the people in cosplay or other random/arbitrary colorful costumes were fun to see — I called several of them dolls (“Look at the doll!”) throughout our time. I’m sure they were dressed to be admired. And the salarymen were ever omnipresent, especially during rush hour, walking in the subway station you feel like a salmon swimming upstream against wave after wave of salarymen; again, all the same appearance, all mindless drones. Cogs in the bigger machine.

The food was good of course, although not Asian-cheap, but we did indulge in one tiny restaurant outside the Tsukiji Fish Market, and lived on affordable convenience store (hello 7-Eleven!) takeaway bento boxes the rest of the time — which I liked very much! We also tried the occasional conveyor belt lunch sushi or ramen house or even a Mos Burger. I was pretty open-minded about all food of course (I did not try live squid of course, but I love the BuzzFeed video). There are no dogs or cats in Tokyo, maybe five dogs in all the city, and at least two of them are Shiba Inus. We were fortunate in seeing a (rather sickly-looking) raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides), also known as the tanuki.

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Taiwan was such a stark contrast because the minute we started walking around, we saw cats slinking about everywhere, and dogs sitting on little stools outside their owner’s shop. So cute! Taiwan was excellent. I know, I know, I am biased. Not as clean, but more vivid and lively and tasty. First off, the people. The Taiwanese people were just as polite as the Japanese, but somehow more.. personable. Warm and friendly! Taiwanese and Japanese people would both help us out if we were lost, but Taiwanese people would make jokes with us (they also spoke more English, even elderly people in Taipei, whereas not even “English speaking” Japanese really comprehended us and vice versa), or treat us like some family member, making us cut in the bus line in front of them, etc. Or a guy out jogging in the park couldn’t understand our question for directions, so he called a friend who spoke better English (who also couldn’t understand what we were looking for), but after I managed to convey what we were looking for (thank you Pleco app!), he offered to take us there himself even though he looked exhausted, was covered in sweat, and dusk was rapidly falling (we politely declined). Both cultures are respectful of the elderly, but Taiwanese really went out of their way to give up their seats on the train/bus instantly, as soon as an elderly person boarded, no matter how crowded it became. Plus, my mother’s friends hosted us for a couple of days, and my mom paid for our lodge on Dasyueshan, because Taiwanese pride themselves as champion hosts.

Second off, the food and the prices. There they use the New Taiwan Dollar (at the time of writing, 1 New Taiwan Dollar equals 0.027 €). The public transit in Taipei was so cheap! You couldn’t believe how little we spent, compared to Japanese hotels and food. And so the slideshow below is dedicated mostly to the wide variety and diversity of delicious, fresh, affordable foods we sampled. I should keep a travel diary again — there are lots of impressions that are better documented in the moment, with memory and impressions still fresh. The juiciness of a mango, the bitter crunch of some asian greens, the umami flavor of some braised pork on fragrant jasmine rice.

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Third, the birds. We saw more endemic bird species there than Tokyo. The mountain we visited (see my earlier Dasyueshan post, also some foodie photos there too) was the BEST birding place — cool and foggy at times, but really lush and gorgeous, and the birds so tame! They just hopped all over the road and came out at the randomest moments. It was a delight for any birder, and the cool altitude was a relief from so much August heat. Plus we saw a macaque up there, and I took photos of him/her but they all came out blurry. And so so many of the prettiest birds. We didn’t see everything we wanted, of course. But really, you feel lucky after a while, because it was the worst possible month/season to bird after all.

Can’t wait to go back to Taiwan. Once a decade has been my going rate so far. Not too shabby. ^_^


Chana masala

Chickpea (चना) curry, aka chole masala or channay or Chholay (काबुली चना)

Adapted from smitten kitchen

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced
ground coriander
ground cumin
ground cayenne pepper
ground turmeric
amchoor powder (I did not have)
Garam masala
500 g can of tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
150 mL water
480 g canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 lemon (juiced) — I like it a bit less sour


Cream cheese banana bread

Adapted from BuzzFeed

Serving Size: 10 slices.

1 large egg
175 g cane sugar
113 g butter
57 g sour cream (Greek yogurt may be substituted)
2 splashes of vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas
128 g all-purpose flour
1 g baking soda
pinch of salt

Cream Cheese Filling:
1 large egg
113 g softened cream cheese
57 g granulated sugar
3 heaping spoonfuls of all-purpose flour

Mix wet ingredients, then mix dry ingredients. Then mix cream cheese filling. Layer half batter, then filling, then top with the rest of the batter. Bake at 180 deg C for 50 min. Mine came out a bit dense, not sure why — I think my other recipe came out much better!