Pinot Noir Yuba Stew with Yuba

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Today, I am featuring a very special guest chef, who would like to teach you all whipping up a delicious yuba stew with Pinot noir, slowly roasted garlic, and cannellini beans. Our guest chef is only mildly intelligent, but he more than makes up for that with his dashingly handsome looks and cheerful attitude. He enjoys the outdoors, eating things with gusto, and charming the socks off of strangers. Introducing…Yuba the French Bulldog!

Yuba the dog!

Yuba the dog modeling his favorite hoodie, here to teach you all about cooking with yuba.

Look at those ears! Yuba would like to know that although he hasn’t met you yet, he already loooovvvees you. His favorite thing is meeting new people, and he greets everyone with an effusive face lick, with extravagant amounts of panting for good measure. So if you’re not into that sort of thing, well…I cannot comprehend why you wouldn’t be into that sort of thing.

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Anyways! Enough distraction from Yuba the cute puppy. Let’s go over how awesome this Pinot noir yuba stew is. (Don’t worry; no Yubas were harmed in the making of this yuba stew.) Imagine silky strips of yuba floating in a savory thyme, Pinot noir, and mushroom sauce, with creamy cannellini beans and roasted garlic. Now top that off with some hazelnut oil and it’s fancy enough for a date night in, and yet it’s a one pot dish that’s simple enough for a weekday night.

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Soaked yuba skin cut into strips

For those of you unfamiliar with yuba, it is created in the tofu making process. When you boil fresh soy milk, a thin sheet of soy milk rises to the top, much like how hot milk forms a skin on top. Then, the sheet is lifted out from the pot and left to dry, and this is yuba, or yuba skin. It is sold  fresh, dried, or frozen, although fresh can sometimes be hard to find. If you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I heartily recommend Hodo Soy Beanery yuba skin, as it is organic and super fresh. For those of you not in the SF Bay Area, you can find both dried and frozen in any Asian market. If you go to a Chinese market, you can ask for it by asking for “Fu pay.”

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Yuba is incredibly versatile, and many vegans use it as the “skin” to their vegan turkeys, or deep fry it to make yuba crackling. Here, we let its silky smooth texture shine through by gently simmering it in a fragrant sauce, and accent its nutty taste with hazelnut oil. Alas, I have since moved away from the Bay Area (whyyyy?) to attend medical school in August (so soon!!), so I’m making this dish with frozen yuba instead.

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Mr. Yuba the dog would like to inform you that if you do not typically like red wine in cooking, you should try this out. Often red wines can taste a little astringent due to the tannins in the wine, and cooking with it will only highlight the astringency.  Wines higher in tannins are usually paired with a meaty dish like steak, because the tannins mellow out in the presence of fats and proteins. With vegan or vegetarian dishes, you can mellow out the astringency of red wine using protein filled ingredients, like the yuba skin and cannellini beans in the recipe, adding a dash of hazelnut oil, and by using a wine lower in tannins, like Pinor noir.

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I’ll end with a gratuitous shot of Yuba being adorable.

Yuba pondering life and all of its mysteries.

Yuba pondering life and all of its mysteries. Don’t let that soulful and thoughtful face fool you, his stream of consciousness is probably just “toys? treats? new people!!!”

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Kale Salad with Miso-Caper Dressing

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I should warn you that this kale salad is unlike anything you have ever tried before. If this kale salad took part in an organized competition, it would look something like this:

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And Mr. Kale takes the GOLD!

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Seriously though, this is the kale salad to end all kale salads. It’s so good, I would KALE for it. (Get it? kill (kale) for it? okay, maybe that one was a bit of a stretch) This kale salad plays off the comforting sweetness of fresh kale with a light tangy miso-caper sauce, and the addition of the oven baked tofu, roasted almonds, and rice make it a meal in itself. It’s healthy yet filling, cheap, and a nutritional star. This is exactly the meal I crave when the summer humidity is clinging to me and turning my brain into sludge. Plus, it won’t wreck your bikini body.

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I hesitated to put this recipe on my blog, because I think there’s a stereotype running amok that vegans eat only kale, kale, and kale. But life is too short to hide my love of kale! It grows almost all year round, and its hearty leaves hold up nicely in the freezer if you end up with a kale surplus. It can be made into crispy kale chips, braised spiced kale, kale smoothies, kale stew, kale juice, and so much more.  It’s loaded with calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, and beta carotene. Plus, it is a source of indole-3-carbinol, which is being investigated for its cancer fighting properties, especially breast, colorectal, cervical, and endometrial cancer, and it can be used to treat fibromyalgia. Wow!

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Now you might be asking me, “Is there anything kale CAN’T do?” Well, it probably won’t be able to save you from drowning. Although, in that scenario, you might be able to build a raft from kale stems, but I haven’t tried that, so please don’t quote me on that. Continue reading

Super Post! Vegan Tuna Nigiri, Uni, and Smoked Salmon

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Tuna nigiri made from slowly roasted watermelon

My vegan friend Saph came to visit last weekend, and I was entirely flummoxed by what I should do to amuse her during her stay. You see, the only way I know how to entertain guests is to throw delicious food at them until they can no longer move and resort to a slow crawl while clutching too full bellies. And that is not everyone’s idea of fun. Fortunately for me, when I asked Saph’s girlfriend Lisa for ideas, she did not hesitate to respond, “Extremely realistic vegan sushi. Make that and she will be super happy.”

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Vegan uni made from soaked cashews and flaxseed oil

Now that is an easy guest to please, because extremely realistic vegan sushi has lately become an obsession of mine. Long time vegans will all understand when I say sushi that mimics the texture and taste of raw fish is one of the hardest things to fake. Vegans have vegan baking down to a science, vegan cheese has dozens of varieties, and there are more varieties of vegan milk than animal based milk. But jaw-droppingly delicious vegan sushi made me wish for a Star Trek replicator (did you know that Vulcans are vegetarians too?) so that I could just cheat and synthesize vegan sushi out of random molecules. Vegan sushi was a frontier yet to be explored and conquered…until now!

Today, I have three amazing recipes for vegan sushi. Having thought an awful lot about creating vegan sushi, I think that it needs to be conquered on three levels: 1) texture, 2) taste, and 3) appearance. Of all of those levels, the texture of raw fish is the most difficult to mimic, since there is nary a plant-based food in sight that has the buttery and silky texture of tuna sashimi.

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Oh but wait there is! Watermelon. And I know what you’re thinking, “Wanda, you’ve been vegan too long. Watermelon does not have the texture of tuna sashimi at all.” But if we slowly bake the watermelon for about two hours, the texture transforms itself from crunchy and refreshing fruit to a delectable cut of the freshest sashimi. The color also changes from a light red to the dark ruby red of fresh ahi tuna.

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Watermelon cubes that you slowly bake into tuna nigiri

The taste, however, leaves a little to be desired. Baked watermelon straight out of the oven tastes a bit like teriyaki sauce; there is some umami flavor there from the roasting, but there is a definite sweetness as well. To get rid of some of that sweetness, I soaked up the watermelon juice using paper towels, then marinated them in a combination of soy sauce, kelp flakes, and flaxseed oil. The kelp flakes add a fishy ocean taste. The flaxseed oil adds the buttery taste that you expect with fish, and it really tricks your taste buds because flaxseed oil has omega-3 fatty acids, just like fish oil does. Once I tasted the marinated watermelon, it was so similar to real sashimi that I ran around the kitchen happily screaming, “I’m a WIZARD!! A food wizard!”

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­Next, I needed to replicate uni which is my second favorite type of sushi. If you are unfamiliar with uni, it is the sexual gonads of the sea urchin, and it is way better tasting than that sounds. It’s like eating a creamy cloud with the perfume of the ocean. Uni was actually extraordinarily easy to create using soaked cashews, flaxseed oil, and kelp flakes, and vegan uni is so yummy that I can just eat it with a spoon all day long. If you happen to be a uni-loving omnivore, but don’t have the fat paycheck to pay for your uni addiction, try this recipe out. Last time I checked, uni was going for $7-10 a plate in San Francisco (then again, everything is overpriced in San Francisco), and this recipe makes enough to have 12 plates of uni!

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The last recipe is vegan smoked salmon sushi. This vegan smoked salmon would be equally happy to play the role as vegan lox with cream cheese on a bagel. I took a beet, and covered it in a salt paste, then slowly roasted it in the oven. Salt roasting the beet transforms it into a smooth, yet flaky texture and flavors the beet intensely as well. Marinating that in the same flaxseed oil-kelp flakes mixture helps boost the smoked salmon flavor.

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Roasted Garlic, Arugula, and Squash Quiche

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Ever have those days where you have absolutely no idea what to make for dinner? I’m not talking about simply  vacillating between eating spaghetti or a weird casserole dish, or the great “Can I Eat Pancakes for Dinner?” debate. I’m talking about those days that you sit down to think about what to eat, and every single dish you have in mind seems utterly boring. And even though you have a whole shelf filled with wonderful cookbooks, the pages might as well be filled with gibberish for all the good they are doing you.

So like the proper child born of the Internet age that I am, I turned to the solver of all problems: Google, and typed in “What should I make for dinner?” And I found this charming little gem: What The F*ck Should I Make For Dinner? It basically randomizes recipes from Epicurious, and tells you (in very crass language) that you should make one specific recipe. The website is like a digitalized and impatient Gordon Ramsay bossing you around, which can come in handy if you are stuck in a cooking rut. If you don’t like that recipe, then click “I DON’T DUCKING LIKE THAT!” and if you don’t eat meat, just click “I DON’T FLIPPING EAT MEAT!”

Anyways, the website told me to cook up some fucking squash and gorgonzola quiche. What a genius site! I love squash! And quiche! (I first tried quiche in my high school French class, cooked up by other high school classmate who probably cheated on the French food assignment and bought a Costco quiche and passed it off as their own…but it doesn’t matter; true love is true love, and I loved quiche from then on.)

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I did have to veganize the recipe, since the original Epicurious recipe had ample amounts of cream and eggs and cheese and butter. I made the quiche vegan by replacing the egg and cream base with a really thick soy milk béchamel so that it could set. While I was at it, I thought I might add some smoky roasted garlic and some zippy spicy arugula to really make this quiche the stuff of fantasies. Continue reading

Chanukah Party: Vegan Sufganiyot

Happy Chanukah, my lovely readers.

Tonight, for the first time ever, I went to a Chanukah party. I am still not entirely sure what Chanukah is all about, but if all Chanukah celebrations are as wonderful and happy as tonight, I may have to plot to get the coveted invitation to a Chanukah party every year. How did this Chinese girl get invited to a Chanukah party?

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Five years ago…dear reader, I hear you sighing in exasperation already! What good story starts with “five years ago”? Sappy fools like me start their sappy stories with a serendipitous beginning five years ago. This is when I first started college, and I started volunteering in a mentoring organization called Project SMILE. My mentee was a 11-year old blue haired girl named Lila, who was wilder than a tornado, with the attention span of a goldfish/gnat cross. Which, let me tell you, was not the best combination for academic excellence in public school.

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My task was to get her to sit still long enough to do her homework, which, for any other kid, would have been easy. But my mischievous and fearless mentee would spend her days inventing grand schemes to get out of doing work. She would claim that her teachers didn’t believe in assigning her homework (always a classic!). She would climb on the roof and claim she couldn’t do her homework because there were no pencils on the roof, so I would chase after her on the roof of her house with colored pencils. She would distract me with ice cream (oh, the Achilles’ heel of a poor and hungry college student!).

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Most of the time she won. Instead of focusing on homework like I wanted, we would spend afternoons watching the sunset on her roof or petting her very polite Labrador Retriever, Geary. I spent A LOT of time with Lila and her family in my years of college, and I became a regular fixture at their dinner table.

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But tonight was the first night I was invited to their Chanukah festivities. We read a Chanukah story together (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins), and her father and mother sang traditional Chanukah blessings. Then Lila and I lit the menorah, and her mother fried up some vegan latkes while Geary (the dog) paddled around the kitchen hopefully looking for dropped latkes. We ate the latkes with three types of organic applesauce (this is Berkeley, after all), and drank watered-down rosé. I even received a beautiful red bracelet as a Chanukah present!

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The funniest thing happened then: slowly but surely, the warmth of Chanukah enveloped me in a wonderful sense of community and place, and that wooden house ringing with laughter became a second home to me.

Lila tried to explain to me what Chanukah was about, though the powdered sugar from the sufganiyot muffled the story and she’s now 16 so it came out something like this, “Well the Jews got kicked out of the temple but then they took it back and they didn’t have enough oil to burn throughout the night but then a miracle happened and they had enough oil for eight nights and that’s why we eat latkes.” I think it’s supposed to be celebrating that miracle.

For me, though, the miracle of this Chanukah was their gift to me, opening up their home to me. The miracle was that I suddenly had a second home with my adopted Jewish family, and it reconfirmed my belief that you can find love in the oddest places. And if you find it in that weird odd place, don’t question it. Just accept whatever weird odd love you can find. I’m almost 100% positive that is NOT the miracle of Chanukah, but nevertheless, I’m honored that I could have this miracle for my Chanukah present.

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The second miracle is vegan sufganiyot, which is basically a fluffy-wuffy jelly donut drowning in powdered sugar, which is basically the best thing ever. Deep frying at home can be somewhat scary though, so I’ve got a couple of tips to offer you:

  1. YOU MUST WEAR PANTS.
  2. I like to deep fry in a cast iron pan, so it’s harder to knock the pan off the stove and it keeps the heat at a stable temperature.
  3. Flip things over with extra long chopsticks, which you can buy at any Asian supermarket.

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Vegan Sufganiyot
makes 12 donuts | prep time: 2 hours
My lovely friend Lisa told me that these are traditional to eat during Chanukah because they are fried in oil. I think that they’re just delicious, and too awesome to reserve for just Chanukah. Continue reading

Chocolate Nutella Truffles for Valentine’s Day

Flabbergasted as to what to get for your vegan lover in your life? Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered, with chocolate. hazelnut. truffles.

I know a lot of people who hate Valentine’s Day with a vengeance, which is a sentiment that I don’t understand. It’s a whole holiday dedicated to other people giving you chocolate and tacky cards that sing and more chocolate! And while Halloween is also centered around giving out chocolate, you can often get stuck with yucky candy like Dots or Almond Joys (a misnomer if you ask me, as they neither give me joy nor a lot of almonds) or the dreaded Tootsie Roll during Halloween. Valentine’s Day is all about dark sexy oozing chocolate truffles in suggestive packaging rather than crappy candy meant to appease seething masses of kids with undeveloped taste buds.

Two things that I really missed as a vegan were Nutella and Ferrero Rochers. Nutella, I would eat with a butter knife straight out of a the jar, and the speed at which I could eat Ferrero Rochers was only hindered by 1) the speed at which I could unwrap the damn individually wrapped things and 2) the limited amount of chocolates in a box. On a related note, my friend once gave me a box of 24 chocolates for my 16th birthday, and I ate every single one of them before my birthday was over. I think I vowed never to eat ever again after that night, but as you can see, I am clearly over that phase.

This recipe is a little time intensive, but if you want chocolate truffles in your life you’re going to have to work for it! All it involves is toasting up the hazelnuts, whizzing up the vegan Nutella in your food processor, then rolling the hazelnut filling, and dipping it in chocolate. It’s fun to make in the kitchen with your lover (…except if you are dating my boyfriend, who insisted on “taste testing” half of my Nutella before I could make them into truffles which is really just not conducive to the making truffles thing) and it’s a whole lot cheaper  and better tasting than going out and buying store-bought truffles. Continue reading

Black Pepper Tofu

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It is currently only the 10th day of 2013, which means that I am still fulfilling most of my New Year’s resolutions. What are some of your New Year’s resolutions? One of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat a healthy dinner every night, instead of something filling but nutritionally unbalanced, like a giant bowl of chocolate ice cream with sprinkles…although that does sound nice. In my defense, my best friend, who is very intelligent, says that if I eat a banana with a bowl of ice cream, the banana will cancel out all the sugar and fat.

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This black pepper tofu dish is my idea of a perfect weeknight dinner, since it is easy, quick, and cheap to make. This is my idea of comfort food, and you won’t feel weighed down afterwards. Serve it on top of some jasmine rice with some steamed bok choy, and it makes a wonderfully balanced and flavorful meal. It has a kick from both black pepper and red hot peppers, all smoothed out by the subtle sweetness of garlic, ginger, shallots, and leeks.

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I typically crush the black peppercorns and make the sauce with a mortar and pestle. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, I have attempted to make this sauce by crushing the peppercorns with the back of my cleaver, but that ended up with an awful amount of time chasing the peppercorns rolling around the kitchen. If you do not enjoy aerobic exercise while you cook, you can simply grind the peppercorns in a pepper grinder and then mix in the rest of the ingredients.

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I just warn you though, this dish is good for every night except for a date night. You will end up with pepper bits all up in your teeth, and your breath will smell like garlic… Continue reading

Blood Orange Chocolate Muffins

Do you want to hear a joke. Of course you do.
Q: What did the apple say to the orange after its rind was cut off?
A: What a pith-y!

Orange you glad you heard that joke? hahahahahahahaha! I am sometimes surprised that my friends have not all left me from the terrible-ness of my puns.

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Sometimes I daydream about being a robot, because then I would be of utmost efficiency and never waste precious time. Robot Wanda would be entirely systematic and would not endlessly forget where she put her keys or the TV remote. Robot Wanda would always remember to fertilize and water her bonsai tree, Maximilian. The 24 hours in a day would seem like 36 hours because of the increased productivity!

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Where was I going with all of this? Oh yes. Efficiency. Productivity. Streamline. This is my New Year’s resolution: to be Robot Wanda 2013, with 4x efficiency! Sometimes people tell me how efficient I already am, and then I smile, because what they perceive as efficiency is actually just laziness. I aspire to spend as little time as possible doing things I dislike (laziness/efficiency) in order to do things I do like doing, like updating my blog.

The first step to streamlining my life is to make breakfast more easily accessible. You see, as much as I love and respect breakfast, I am usually a sludge-like monster in the morning. I allot myself exactly fifteen minutes to wake up and get out the door every morning, so I am quite impressed if I manage to get dressed and gosh, I feel like awarding myself a fancy blue ribbon if I remember to brush my hair in the morning. So as you can see, these rushed fifteen minutes do not leave much time for breakfast. Skipping breakfast can often lead to decreased levels of concentration for me, since I will incessantly think about lunch instead of work.

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What’s the solution? On one day of the week when you have extra time, make a healthy breakfast for yourself that will last all week. My breakfast solution has been blood orange chocolate muffins. These are beautiful jewel toned wonders are a breakfast that you will love waking up to. You can freeze the ones that you will not eat right away.

To prepare the blood oranges for baking, you should cut off ALL of the rind and pith from the oranges because the cooking will make the essential oils taste extra bitter, and you don’t want to be biting into your muffin and getting a bitter chunk. Remember also to remove the white fibers from the center of the orange. There should be no white stuff remaining when you are done. You also can remove all the white stuff painstakingly by hand, but I just like to slice it off with my cleaver. The trick is to rest the knife edge where the pith meets the flesh of the orange, then use a back and forth sawing motion while rotating your knife to follow the curve of the orange. It’s much quicker and neater.

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I love these muffins because the blood orange chunks in them are a surprising filling rather than plain blueberry or raisin muffins. The little blood orange chunks will burst with juice, making your muffins wonderfully fragrant, and the chocolate will balance out the slight bitterness of the oranges. Blood oranges are in season right now, and we all know that in season fruits means cheapcheapcheap. I found these wonderful organic blood oranges for only $1.50/pound.

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If you’ve ever wondered why blood oranges are red, it is because of the large amount of anthocyanins in them. Anthocyanins are pigment molecules that are found in many plants, but they are especially abundant in blood oranges, raspberries, and cranberries. Besides contributing their vibrant color, anthocyanins are also potent antioxidants, so they will scavenge and fight free radicals in your body for you, which is correlated with a lower incidence of neurological disease and reduced aging. Now THAT is what I call a useful, and more importantly, efficient breakfast!

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Jicama Gado-Gado

Happy holidays, everyone!

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This holiday has been so peaceful for me, spending some nice relaxing time with my mom and boyfriend while it is pouring outside. The rain is fantastic because 1) I have an excuse to lounge around indoors and update my blog and 2) I have an excuse not to rake those leaves that my mom thinks I should rake! Happy holidays to me, indeed.

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I think holidays should be about sharing food and laughs with family and friends, but since most of my family is spread far across the world, I wanted to share a recipe with everyone. That way, anyone can pretend that they are spending Christmas with me, just by making this recipe!

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Mr. Jicama about to be butchered

Gado-gado is an Indonesian dish traditionally made with vegetables, fried tofu, tempeh, dried shrimp, eggs, steamed potatoes, and a peanut sauce, but I decided to veganize and California-ize this dish. It’s an extremely flexible dish that I encourage you to play with, and you can make this recipe out of old vegetable or protein in your fridge. (Unless you are serving it to an Indonesian person, in which case, I take no credit for bastardizing their dish…) Raw zucchini, roasted eggplant, and summer tomatoes are just a few ingredients that would go wonderfully with this salad. If you’re allergic to peanuts, feel free to make this with roasted walnut butter or roasted almond butter, and sprinkle some roasted cashews on top. It’s also gluten free as long as you make sure to use a wheat free soy sauce. Nothing says Christmas in California better than cool, slightly sweet jicama, warm slightly seared and crusty tofu, toasted walnuts, and a peanut sauce with a kick.

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Also, this recipe can be made with nothing more than a good sharp knife, a bowl, and a fork, so clean-up is a breeze. For those of you unfamiliar with watching a lot of Food Network, this recipe requires you to julienne the jicama and the carrots, which is just a fancy word for, “Cut into long thin strips.” This creates a large surface area for the vegetables to get coated with sauce and looks aesthetically pleasing, but if your knife skills are not up to the challenge, this salad will taste equally good in block shapes.

The jicama is a little unwieldy, so first chop off both the pointed ends, then slice in half vertically. I then find it easiest to peel the jicama by slicing off the skin with a knife rather than with a vegetable peeler because jicama is so fibrous that it clogs my vegetable peeler up. Then slice the jicama into thin half moons, then slice into sticks. Also, another quick tip: buy a small jicama, or else you will have so much julienned jicama you won’t know what to do with it. I bought a medium sized jicama and I had jicama for dinner, breakfast, and lunch, and there is still more jicama in the fridge. Another awesome tip: you can cut up the jicama way ahead of time because it does not brown after cutting it. I have left it in my fridge for two days and it still has not browned.

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Half moons of jicama, about to be cut into thin strips

Some people wonder how to get their tofu to have a nice crust on it without subjecting themselves to the horror of at-home deep frying. A lot of people complain that their tofu sticks to their pan, especially if they are not using a non-stick pan. Never fear, with my technique, you can get seared tofu with even a cast iron pan that has been treated badly!

First, get some firm or extra-firm tofu. Anything else will dissolve into globlets of unhappiness when you try to fry it. Next, cut open the box and slice the tofu into slices about 1/2″ thick. Lay them out on a paper towel, sprinkle salt over them, cover with more paper towel, and wait for 10 minutes. The salt is important; it draws out the extra water through osmosis! The point of this is to prevent the tofu from being overly wet when you place it in the pan, because then you run the risk of the tofu slowly boiling in its own juices rather than searing and forming a nice crust. After your tofu is nice and dry, heat your pan to medium-high, pour 1-2 tablespoons of neutral oil on the bottom, and WAIT UNTIL YOUR PAN IS HOT, then put the tofu in the pan. Each side should take about 2-3 minutes. Ta-da!

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The Best Noodle Soup!

Sometimes in the summer, I get a little jealous of people who live in cities besides San Francisco. Summer does not actually exist in San Francisco; case in point, today I wore long pants and a trench coat, and I still felt chilly. It was so foggy, I think I got rained on from the condensation of the fog. It is so foggy in San Francisco that I believe I would bet a cookie that foghorns were invented here. It is like I’m constantly in the mysterious portion of a movie where the main character walks through a creepy fog, but instead of finding a last unicorn I just walk into sewers that smell very very dank.

But San Francisco is a great city beyond that! Some positives about this place? You can wear the same outfit all year round because it is always foggy! Also, if you are pale (not me), you won’t get sunburned. You never have to rake your snow! (Is it called raking snow? You can tell I’ve lived in the Bay Area for too long if I don’t know how to put the snow away.)

Also, there’s no need to ever work out for that swimsuit body because the beaches are so damned cold no one can go swimming anyways! Yay!

And best of all, it is always the season for a hot piping bowl of noodles in delicious brothy goodness. Yum yum. It gets so chilly throughout the day and then the chill settles into your bones, and all you can think of is a giant bowl of noodles. Then that first waft of noodles starts steaming away all your troubles and all your chills and everything is perfect again.

My noodle soup is made from ingredients readily available in any kitchen, but feel free to substitute anything in it! Soup is meant to be a mish-mash of ingredients anyways, and if the soup starts tasting a little “muddy” from too many flavors and ingredients going on, just add a little fresh tomato or a splash of lime juice.

I like starting this broth with just a little bit of fresh tomato to give it some pizazz and spark, and then adding a bunch of savory items like mushrooms and onions and garlic, then finally some color on top with some fresh vegetables. This is also great because it’s a one-pot dish, and it’s gluten free as long as you use rice noodles (rather than udon or regular wheat noodles). This is a yummy lunch or dinner, and it is extremely filling. If you need a little extra protein, you can drizzle a little unsweetened soymilk (trust me, it’s a weird technique, but it works), or just add some slices of grilled tofu on top.

For the rest of the world who doesn’t live in cold-as-nipples-on-an-icecube summertime, just save this noodle soup recipe for when you or a loved one has a cold. I promise it will make all your worries go away.

Oh wait, before the recipe, this is my 50th recipe on this blog! Yayyyyy! I can’t believe it’s been so long, but I really love creating each post, and I love everyone who comments and reads this blog as well.

To celebrate the 50th recipe of this blog, I want to tell you that I will be writing a food book with one of my best friends Anna over the next year! (If I don’t announce it in a public forum, I’ll never do it…) Anna recently graduated from a prestigious art school, and as an artist, one theme that she explores is the intersection between memories, food, and culture. You should really check out her website; her art is at once playful and evocative and utterly beautiful. We still have no idea what we will be writing about, or how it should be done, but we’re open to ideas. Tell me about your ideas for this wonderful food book we should create.

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Raw Corn, Avocado, & Heirloom Tomato Salad

Growing up, I never had soda or a Whopper or even fries. My uber health conscious mother banned me from ever eating fast food and discouraged me from eating sweets. To her, dessert is a fruit platter, or 1/6 of a cheesecake slice, and dinner is a steamed fish with rice and vegetables.


This ran in direct opposition to my father, who simply loved to eat for the sake of it. He attributes it to the fact that he was always starving when he was growing up, so when he finally came to America, he couldn’t help himself when he was surrounded by food so cheap and plentiful and delicious. When my mother wasn’t looking, he would sneak us a whole duck and the two of us would finish it before she saw it, chomping through the entire one-fourth of an inch of pure duck fat. One of my favorite recipes of his involved putting an entire chicken into a rice cooker, along with a package of “chicken powder”.

Only later did I realize that the package of powder that I was sprinkling all over the chicken was pure MSG! His health objectives were…questionable, to say the least. in any case, it was a good thing that I inherited his iron stomach and metabolism like a hyper black hole.

I have always thought my mother’s eating habits to be a little too health conscious, for what can a brownie once in a while really do? You would think they were menacing terrorists the way she speaks of brownies. But maybe her habits hold some truth. In the past month, I have gotten sick for the first time in a while, and I have been feeling tired and sluggish. And what did I have for dinner that week? Curly fries, and Chipotle burritos, and then more curly fries…

So! This upcoming week I have decided to be extremely healthy. Some of you might be wondering what could possibly be healthier than veganism. What does a vegan person eat when they want to be a healthier? They transition to RAW food. Instead of Wanda, I will be RAWda! (say that last line with an ominous rumble in your throat.)


For those of you unfamiliar to raw diets, some foodists believe that the healthiest way to eat your food is to eat them without heating them up. That way, the vitamins and antioxidants and other health benefits in your food don’t get degraded or washed away in the cooking process.

Now I am not sure that I fully buy into that argument, but there are some great things about a raw diet. Raw food does make you feel healthier, like you are some sort of yoga junkie except you don’t even have to exercise! Also, raw food is mostly gluten free, so you can share with all your gluten free friends. You also don’t have to cook, and as much as I love cooking, I do admit there are nights when I am too lazy to cook. Continue reading

Poutine

Do you know what poutine is? It is a Canadian specialty borne out of heaven. I had never heard of poutine before, until the moment that the blaring lights of a Food Network special (hey, a girl has to have a couple of guilty pleasures, right?) showed the hot, oil-drenched spuds in a pretty basket, and then a man spooned gravy and melty cheese all over the fries…
Now, keeping in mind that I was then currently being buried alive in work, and had subsisted a week on fruit and drinking out of soymilk cartons, after I watched this Food Network special on poutine, I realized that I had never wanted anything more in my entire life. I needed fries and gravy and cheese and all that heart stopping grease in my life.
I would have driven to Canada, this craving was so bad. I didn’t have a car though. Everyone else I knew didn’t want to drive me to Canada for poutine because apparently they had work or school or finals or excuse generating robots. Also, I was mildly sure that the television poutine was not vegan.
Perturbed, yet not defeated, I set my course of action. I was destined for this wondrous Canadian delicacy! I was to make the best vegan poutine of all time. I would make it with the best potatoes out there, with some rich mushroom gravy, and then top them with some Daiya cheese. My French friend, Marlon, helped me out because who better to make French fries than a Frenchman? He also has the same predilection for doing long drawn out activities when deadlines are approaching.
When the vegan poutine was made, we sat out on the sunny porch and ate our cardiac arrest inducing breakfast. Halfway through, we realized our vital mistake! Poutine is a Canadian specialty because they need all that fat and carbohydrates to keep warm. Eating poutine on a sweltering day in America for breakfast makes you feel at once opulent and sluggish and in dire need of a nap. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Continue reading

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Ah, the end of April, the season of balmy weather, other people telling you that you should throw out your Christmas tree, and ice cream! Everybody loves ice cream, even chimpanzees; I was reading an article called, “Vocal and Gestural Responses of Cross-Fostered Chimpanzees” by Drumm, Gardner, & Gardner, which talks about how researchers taught chimpanzees sign language. The researchers then signed the chimpanzees the question, “You want ice cream?” One of them, Dar, signed back, “Ice cream hurry gimme,” while the other, Tatu, signed back, “Ice cream ice cream ice cream ice cream ice cream.” Completely adorable, right?

Adhering to tradition, all ice cream posts on Thursdays with Wanda should be accompanied by a short story. Today’s short story is about a zebra.

Zed the Zebra

Once upon a time, there was a zebra named Zed. When he was a small colt, a ravishingly hungry lion named Ryan came by and ate his entire herd family. However, by the time it was Zed’s turn to be eaten, Ryan felt a little bloated and decided to keep Zed as a pet.

Zed the zebra

As Zed grew up, Ryan became a little bored with life on the plains, as it was as plain as could be! He decided to become a concert pianist, but, as all of you know, there are no wild pianos to be found in the plains. What’s a pianist to do without a piano? Ryan thought, and all this hard thinking made him squint in frustration. And the more he squinted, the more Zed the zebra started to look just like a piano!

Ryan raised a pointed claw at Zed’s sides, and stabbed at a black stripe, and Zed said, “hee-haw!” from the pain of it. Ryan was so pleased that his zebra piano actually made noise (although far from being in tune), and vowed to become the best pianist in the plains. He soon learned to play Fur Elise on Zed, of which the first few notes sounded a bit like “hee haw haawwww heeeee.”

Sadly horrified to be mistaken as a piano, Zed the zebra sobbed himself to sleep that night. A dream came to him, and in his dream there was an old Chinese woman who told him that black sesame seeds make your hair blacker.

Zed excitedly woke up and promptly made himself some black sesame ice cream. He ate the entire batch of ice cream, and went to a nearby lake to check out his reflection. What he saw was this:

Ryan looked around all over the plains and never found his piano-zebra again. He had to give up his dreams of being a concert pianist, like many prospective concert pianists do.

But you don’t have to give up your dreams of eating black sesame ice cream, because I have the recipe right here! If you’ve never sampled the delicate flavor of black sesame before, it might strike you as a bit strange at first, and then strangely addicting.

When my friend Daniele tried it, I told him to guess what flavor he was eating. He said, “smoked? burnt? um….concrete?” While those might not seem like raving reviews for my ice cream, he kept asking for more and more samples, until he had an entire scoop’s worth, so that must mean it’s delicious.

Oh, and aren’t these photos so pretty now? I finally bought myself a good camera off Craigslist. It was super shady, I met this guy at a train station and he sold it to me out of the back of his trunk…

Black sesame powder

Black Sesame Ice Cream
serves 4 | prep time: 15 minutes | ready in:  4 hours
This is a super easy and raw recipe that will seem simple to even the greenest of cooks! Black sesame is thought to be very good for you and to make your hair blacker. I eat a lot of black sesame, and I have black hair, so it must be true.

Ingredients
-  2 cups black sesame powder*
- 2 cans (14 oz each) full fat coconut milk
- 1/3 cup sugar (you can add more if you like your ice cream to be sweeter)

1. Mix all the ingredients together. Put in the fridge for 2 hours, or until noticeably cold when you stick your finger in.
2. Dump it into your ice cream maker, and follow your ice cream maker’s directions. Scoop the ice cream maker into another tub and freeze for another 2 hours, then enjoy!

*If you don’t have access to black sesame powder, which you can buy at your local Asian grocery store, take some regular black sesame seeds and grind it up in your food processor. About 1 1/2 cups of black sesame seeds will yield 2  cups of black sesame powder.

What’s Wanda Doing in Hong Kong?

Not updating her blog on time, that’s what. Oops. But today, I should like to focus on my favorite haunts in Hong Kong. By favorites, I do not mean that they are the best things to ever try in Hong Kong, because no one could possibly eat everything there is to eat in Hong Kong, and gosh I’ve tried, but that’s like trying to read every book in the world; it can’t happen because more ideas keep spasming their way into reality! But these restaurants are pretty darn tasty.

When I wake up, I like to go to the Happy Cake Shop, at 106 Queens Road East, Wan Chai, HK for my morning bread, when I’m not busy eating cookies for breakfast. I like them because the owners don’t really seem all that happy, and they don’t really sell much cake. I also like them because I always get the raisin bread, and apparently their bakers are very stingy on the raisins and sometimes your raisin bread won’t even have a single raisin in it. So the days that your raisin bread has three raisins it in, oh boy, do you feel like a star! Also, bread is so very very fluffy and cheap.

Lunchtime! is 30 minutes after breakfast time, in my perfect world. In the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve been to 麗姐廚房 (Liza Veggies) at 2/F Harvard Comm. Building, 105-111 Thomson Road, Wanchai, HK four times! Go here for lunch, and you can pick a meal with 3 sides, unlimited rice, and a soup for the low price of $45 HK (little over $5 USD). Yay! And the owner is uncommonly nice, going to every table and asking how the food is going on a slow day.

Second lunchtime! is after lunchtime! Actually, you should have no lunch or breakfast before this next one, because it’s a vegetarian BUFFET! I think I may be hyperventilating from the excitement. This restaurant is called E-Vege Restaurant located at 288 Hennessy Road, Wanchai and provides you an all-you-can-eat buffet all day and all night. They have vegetarian roast duck, skewered barbequed chicken, steamed buns, eggplants, little dimsum things, and so much more. Today’s population at the restaurant consisted mainly of about 25 extremely buff and muscular, extremely hot women all in matching skin tight V-necks, cargo pants, and military style boots. Life is good…

My camera broke the other day because I was excitedly telling someone a story and knocked it off the table. It’s going to go to the camera emergency room when I get back to America, but I think it’s dead. Should I get a Rebel? Anyways, long story short, no pictures of E-Vege, but trust me when I say that there are so many varieties there that you could not possibly eat them all…but I can!

Want to hear tips on how to eat everything at a buffet from a master?  1) Remember to stretch your stomach a few hours beforehand, so drink plenty of hot tea with something that has a lot of volume but not a lot of calories (like melons or grapes).  2) Don’t drink soup at a buffet, unless you really like soup, because it’s a waste of space. On the same track, don’t drink water. 3) Eat really really fast for the first 20-30 minutes, because your brain takes about that long to figure out it’s full. You will feel pain later. I’m pretty sure that’s what it feels like to be pregnant.

You should also go to Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant at 1/F 395 Kings Road. Some of the food is a little sauce heavy, but the star of the show is the minced ginger on top of fresh rolled yuba skin! So delicate!

Other Things I Recommend:

- watching a movie with your cousin and then going to a candy store and then shopping for shoes and cell phone accessories while eating candy out of a bag. Ah, such a pre-teen way to spend the day!

- eating jook with yiu tiu for breakfast; it’s like having a savory donut with rice porridge…yum. Who says donuts and soup don’t go well together?

- If you’re thirsty, make sure to stop by a fruit stand. Some fruit stands (not all though) will feature a juicer and will offer freshly squeezed juice of any variety that you can think of. My mom likes the sugarcane juice, but I’m partial to the freshly squeezed orange or the blended mango.

- Eat roasted chestnuts! I have a unique ability to smell them 3 blocks away, so I can always find chestnuts to eat when I’m hungry. Which is always.

PS. This is the last of the travel posts for now! (See the two others here and here.) I’m going back to America tomorrow, sadly enough for my stomach. Next week will feature a regular recipe post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the change of pace. If you like them, I will do travel posts for all my travels!

7 Things To Avoid Doing in China/HK

This is your tour guide Wanda speaking from the wonderful city of Hong Kong, back from a quick trip to mainland China. As your tour guide, I felt that it is necessary to present to you the “Seven Things to Avoid Doing in China/Hong Kong” so that you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Taking the train from Shenzhen to Guangzhou, just as the sun is setting.

Also, as a quick side note, can I just sing praises to the Western style toilet? How I’ve missed you, how I love you and adore you and would never ever leave you again. In mainland China, the dreaded squat toilet reigned, and whenever I saw a Western style toilet I felt like I could hear a herald angel choir in the foreground with someone in the background announcing that I had just won the lottery. There was one in a bowling alley that I went to, and I swear I drank more water there just so I could have the experience of the Western style toilet over and over and over.

I understand that it’s a more natural position, but I don’t think I’m doing it quite right, because it takes me twice as long as the next person. I went to the zoo, and some kids were using the toilet, and since kids never lock the door, I snuck a peek. I copied their exact position, so I’m pretty sure I was using the toilet the same way they were using it, but I guess I’m just not a professional squat toilet user yet. Some day…

Am I back in America?! Nope, this is just your regular old Mt. Rushmore in China. See the Capitol Building in the foreground?

Anyways, now that I’m done ranting about toilets on my food blog, here’s the list I promised you!

The Seven Things to Avoid Doing in China/Hong Kong

1. Don’t convince your relatives in China to go karaoke-ing with you if you can’t read Chinese, because the English selections will invariably suck. You will not know how to sing any of the Phil Collins selection that they provide for you, nor the random old 50′s music, nor the LeAnn Rimes selection that they have.

You will invariably end up singing “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy because that is the only song you recognize, fervently hoping that none of your relatives understand enough English to understand what you’re singing, but of course your cousin works as a English-Chinese translator and is laughing his head off at you. If you are not familiar with the song, I sang, with a straight face, “Picture this; we were both butt-naked, banging on the bathroom floor,” to all my relatives.

It wasn’t me singing this song to my relatives…

2. Don’t trust your dad. More specifically, don’t trust your dad to know how to feed you if you’re a vegan. A few months ago, I told my dad very bluntly that I was now vegan, that I didn’t eat dog or cat or chicken or beef or milk or butter or eggs, and that if there was nothing for me to eat in Guangzhou, I wasn’t going to visit him. He responded very eloquently, with something that roughly translates to, “Guangzhou is a gourmet eater’s paradise, for meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike! Come visit me!” So of course, I naively trusted him and went to visit him in China.

Fast forward to the first night I ate dinner at his house with all the relatives, where he said that they cooked a dinner especially for me.They had “name brand” choy sum (extra expensive, about $100 RMB per stalk), broccoli, spring onions, and bok choy because apparently being vegan means that I only like to eat green leafy vegetables. The rest was Peking duck, roast goose, roast pig, fish, any animal you can name was on that table. Even their tofu contained pieces of meat! (My aunt suggested I wash my tofu in my tea…)

“Name Brand” Choy Sum. It kind of (exactly!) tastes like regular choy sum.

To show off their wealth, every single meal that my relatives cooked for me for four days in a row consisted of the “name brand” choy sum. How “name brand” can a vegetable even be?! So that is what I subsisted on for four days, choy sum and white rice. Breakfast choy sum, lunch choy sum, dinner choy sum. Oh, and the peanuts that my dad told me to put in my room in case I got hungry. I think I lost 5 pounds before I returned to Hong Kong. And I developed an intense hatred of choy sum.

Look, it’s Wanda in China! Oh wait, that’s a panda. Unlike pandas, I can’t just subsist on vegetables.

3. Don’t smile too much. Americans smile at strangers, smile at trash cans, smile at the blue skies, and smile at cute dogs. Americans smile a ridiculous amount compared to any other nationality I’ve seen. And I smile a ginormous amount, even for an American.

Apparently it’s creepy. I would try smiling at people on the street and people would actively try and get away from me. I smiled at the bus driver for a good five minutes, telling myself that if I just kept smiling, he would smile back. He pretended not to see me and rolled his eyes for five minutes. Stop smiling!

4. Don’t take photographs of everything, speaking of annoying American traits that I embody. I tried taking a picture of a man welding something, and he got angry at me and started running after me and my nosy camera brandishing his sparking welding tool (what are welding tools called? welders? welderings?).

This resulted in me addressing everyone with, “Respected sir, may I ask, may I take a picture?” Here is a respected sir roasting chestnuts, a wonderful smell to behold.

5. Don’t forget that Chinese is a tonal language. That was nailed into me by my parents from a very young age, because the difference in tones (whether your voice rises or falls in a word) rather than just phonetics (like English) can mean the difference between “I’m hungry”, and “I’m experiencing diarrhea.” So of course I forget that when I go into a shoe store, and loudly ask the shop-girls if they have shoes made of “farting” rather than the similarly pronounced “fake leather”. Oof, the embarrassment!

6. Don’t eat the durian. Don’t try it. Don’t do it! My aunt told me not to try it, so I took a humongous bite of it, in the same vein as “Wet Paint, Don’t Touch.” It tastes like a wet smelly pungent old sponge. Then I tried to drown out the taste with a cup of tea that was just poured, which meant that I burnt my poor, already assaulted tongue.

7. Lastly, don’t recommend your WordPress blog to your relatives in China. They will tell you that it doesn’t exist, because it’s blocked. (I can update from Hong Kong, which is a special administrative district). Apparently my blog is very very dangerous, because I am a very dangerous fellow indeed.

It’s probably because I post pictures like this bean curd dish, which is very dangerous political propaganda. This picture, by the way, was taken in Hong Kong, where my relatives actually understand how to keep my tummy happy.