Monday, January 14, 2008 ;
6:31 AM
It's kind of funny. We complained a lot about not being able to find a lot of ingredients to prepare what we most like to eat back home right?

It is true that Utah has less diversity and is less cosmopolitan than a lot of other big cities, but then actually there are a couple of well-stocked Asian marts in SLC. It's just that, it took us 1 year to find a good one.

haha, so this one happens to be near ds1's school. It's called South China House/ Market.
There we could find almost everything. Except Prima pastes and Tao Kae Noi seaweed lah. Not sure if they will have meat floss or bak kwa, we'll see since CNY is round the corner.

But, I managed to buy kang kong, bean sprouts, xiao bai cai... Very very happy.
So in Nov and Dec, I cooked a lot of familiar dishes. Now that we've gotten over the "missing and yearning", I think I should actually prepare some Mexican and American stuff already, since we won't be able to have that in Tianjin that easily!

Tried some sweet potato fries at Rumbi and liked them, so bought some and tried it myself. Healthier alternative to potato ones? Then had lots of other sweet potato left, so made soup and sweet potato rice too.

Left: pho for kids. Bought Viet pho at the Asian mart, and wanted to make beef pho for the adults, but the kids don't like beef much, so I just gave them semi-dry pho.

Right: cooking our own pho means we can have more beef than pho! haha. went a bit crazy with the sliced beef.

Above: minced Elk meat that Treutleins gave us. Chuck Sr hunted the elk down. He does all the cleaning and prep of the meat himself! I just put some xian zhacai I bought from Asian mart, and the Thai chilli to fry together. Then I use it for fried rice or spaghetti sauce.

We love mushrooms a lot. We did miss Narcissus button mushrooms, but only for awhile, cos the brown and white fresh mushrooms are not expensive and very nice. Once in a while, we eat portobello mushrooms too. When they are cheap. :-)

This was one of those one-dish meals. i.e. there was nothing else on the table. we just ate rice and this. there's chicken breast in there, so it came out quite a balanced meal still. Best thing, I need to wash much fewer dishes. :-)

The Thai chillies came in a packet. I couldn't use up so many at a time, yet didn't want them to spoil or dry up. So I made my own chilli sauce. It was nice to me, esp since it was so long since we had chilli sauce. But dh dislikes garlic. Next time I gotta use less garlic. For now, it is mine to enjoy alone. I made a container's worth.

The shop also sold Taiwanese "cong you bing" which is like roti prata. I couldn't resist, so I bought one packet. :-) They also sell you tiao and ham chin peng! Non-frozen type you know! But I didn't buy all those. We don't miss those that much yet.

Dong Zhi or winter solstice came about, so I bought some frozen tangyuan. Could've made some actually. Cos it wasn't that nice to eat. The kids refused to try it until I submerged them in some milk and condensed milk. That's why the soup looks milky, haha. I agree it looks kind of disgusting. :-)

I also bought some pau and mantou from the same store. The lady boss at the store was so pleased to have such a delightful and suddenly frequent customer that she gave me a very beautiful 2008 lunar calendar in a form of a scroll, and also gave a discount on the kids' snacks I bought.
Bean sprouts with chilli and xiancai. Ok, the bean sprouts took almost forever to have the roots plucked off, so I might not cook it so often, so far had it 4x only.

This one was really on a whim. Saw the Super brand milk tea sachets and the dried tapioca pearls. Both were very reasonably priced. So made my own bubble tea at home. The pearls were tricky though. I could've bought the ready-made pearls that were refrigerated. These dried ones needed a lot of control of the heat, in case they became too gooey, or in case they were not cooked thoroughly. So I was kiasu, and my pearls turned out uneven in consistency. Some were perfectly clear already, but some still had that opaque white in the center. Gave the kids all the good ones and ate all the others myself. Was fun, though not something I would do everyday.

Kangkong... My fav... Dh's fav too. We had this many times since. Sometimes with xiancai and chilli (left), sometimes just with chilli and garlic, sometimes with chicken and chilli (right)... whatever.... It always tasted so good and reminded us of home.

Besides home as in my mom and his mom (who cooked this dish really nice), but also of all the times we ate with friends. Like when Mary, meizan, Yilong and me went all the way to JB to eat seafood and kangkong together during our Uni days. At Mersing too, with Prof Shawn Lum and the rest of our coursemates. And how in Sydney we cooked this too, just cos we missed home.

Oh this one. This was an overgrown onion that I forgot. It was sprouting already and since I bought new onions, I let this continue growing in a plastic cup. Served many purposes.

1. Allowed me to show both ds the regeneration of plants from not just seeds, and allowed them to chart plant growth.

2. Allowed me to have spring onion (the leaves) whenever I needed them, fresh and organic ones! haha Came in handy below, for the carrot cake.

American friends would scratch their heads when they see this is referred to as carrot cake. Sun Cha, our Korean church friend gave her another load of white radishes (as they are really called). We used some to cook soup, and then there were a lot left, so we decided, why not make some luobo gao (commonly called carrot cake in spore).

Dh called his mom for the recipe, and it was rather challenging, cos my mom in law described everything to me over the phone, using Chinese terms and without specific measurements. Cos for her, she just prepares it with experience. She'll know how much time to stir or steam, and how much flour to add etc, without a recipe. So it was hard for her to tell me how much too. But anyway, we tried it.

The steamed cake itself came out harder than I would like, so I think must be too little water or too much flour. But after frying it with eggs, spring onion, chai poh (also bought from the Asian mart) and olive vegetable, it tasted like the hawker center variety (above left). And we were contented.

Dh later wanted the black kind, so we fried it with black sauce (above right).

Back to Western cuisine. Beth from church shared her cheese and garlic biscuit recipe with me, and we loved it. I did some for ourselves, shared some with friends, then when ds1's Winter Fest PArty came, I baked a batch for the kids too. I omitted most of the garlic for the kids.

ds1's classmate River ate so many, and even wanted to bring the rest home. I told his mom to go ahead. So he did. His mom said he loves cheese.

This was dh's farewell dinner. The last supper before he flew to Tianjin. Ok seriously, he was due to go for so long, and he'd be having northern chinese cuisine for so many days. Recalling my trip to China with my parents and sis back in 2000, we were really pining for Burger King or steak at the end of the tour. We're funny creatures, missing CHinese food when there's none and then missing Western food when it can't be found too.

So for the dinner just before he left, we had steak, with portobello mushroom sauce and topping. I know we're kind of crazy with mushrooms too. The portobellos came in a pack of 2. So they overwhelmed the steak. You can't even see the tiny steak from the pic. It was drowning under the mushrooms.

Dh was still giam siap (stingy. thrifty). He was the one who bought the beef, and he bought a lousy cut. So I had the challenge of getting it to be tender yet tasty. Ended up marinating it for hours, so that I can just sizzle it for a short period over really hot flames. Dh said it was good, so ok! But next time, I'd still prefer to get a better cut, even sirloin would be better than this slab of don't know what.

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