Maria, our guide on our hike up Arenal volcano, jokingly said that Costa Ricans had a fervor for life, because they never knew when the volcano would awaken from its deep slumber, and unleash its fury. As we trekked through the rainforest and climbed up giant lava boulders left behind from the last eruption, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the day Arenal would rise from its siesta. ‘Pura vida,’ directly translates to ‘pure life,’ or as Maria puts it, ‘Living every day like it’s your last.’ Full of life and passion.
If there is anything I’ve learned in the past year, it’s to live a purpose-driven life. Sometimes it’s difficult to follow your heart, for fear of failure, the unknown, or simply because it’s easier being comfortable. My recent trip to Costa Rica not only pushed me beyond my comfort zone (from traveling alone in a foreign country to rappelling down a 165-foot waterfall), it was one of the most exhilarating and memorable experiences I’ve had to date.
Today I celebrate my two month anniversary in Boston, and already I piled my plate high with a full-time test kitchen internship at America’s Test Kitchen (a dream come true!), research books and projects, countless pages of readings, and oh, work on the weekends. Two months whizzed by in a blur- I hadn’t realized spring was just around the corner until yesterday. These past couple days have been beautiful here in Boston- a perfect 70 degrees! It was such a gorgeous day out, I decided to walk the 2 miles from ATK to my apartment. Along my sunny stroll back while listening to Medeine Peyroux’s La Javanaise, I remembered the sundresses I had neatly stowed away in boxes and left behind in California. I think they’re impatiently waiting to make their East Coast debut.
I’ve been pondering the notion of daily inspirations lately. Too often are we caught in thick of this hustle and bustle that we call life, it’s easy to forget to slow down every once in awhile to enjoy ourselves. Last night, I was perusing this brilliant blog- Coffee & the Newspaper, and I thought about all the things that inspire me. Today, it’s commencing the arrival of spring through Cherry Blossom Macarones and Medeine Peyroux.
While it hasn’t been the easiest of transitions moving across the country alone (my previous post paints quite the picture), I must confess I’ve relished every moment thus far. Two months in, and I’m finally feeling a bit more settled in my new home. Oftentimes I think the idea of being a Bostonian hasn’t quite registered, and then I’ll find myself in the produce aisle at the grocery store putting oranges in a basket- all of a sudden, the reality sinks in. I live in Boston. Life is funny like that. Sometimes it takes the most mundane and ordinary tasks to spark an epiphany.
This plate of thick al dente Shanghai noodles holds a special place in my heart. Not because it was particularly satisfying, in fact, it was far from it. I had survived my first week in Boston despite my fear of the frigid cold, apartments without modern amenities, public transportation, and most of all, moving to a city where I knew no one. Instead, I smartly packed my entire life into three suitcases, foregoing my summer dresses and heeled pumps that would never last a day in the treacherous snow. I learned to bundle up for 7 degree weather, and the art of waddling in my snow boots. I discovered the incessant metal clinks in the middle of the night wasn't my obnoxious neighbor taking a hammer to the wall- it was the sweet melodies from my hundred year old radiator... in my hundred year old apartment. I learned that 5 miles on the T (Boston's subway system) takes at least 30 minutes, which inevitably leads into my habit of calculating how much faster I'd be able to get there in my car. Then, I'd comfort myself by remembering what it felt like to drive 2 miles an hour in Godawful LA traffic.
Seven days in and I felt incredibly fortunate to have adjusted so quickly... until I had this plate of Shanghai noodles. I had scoured the web for an entire week. My obsessive search for handmade noodles landed me at New King Fung Garden in the heart of Chinatown. Trekking through the snow- thirty minutes later, I found myself staring at a nondescript bungalow next to a car lot. I made my way into the cozy restaurant and sat down at an empty booth fit for four. I felt incredibly small and out of place. I quickly flipped through the menu and spotted the coveted handmade Shanghai noodles. It arrived piping hot and full of promise. One bite, and my eyes welled up with tears. It tasted nothing like what I imagined. Mediocre at best. The noodles had a balanced bite and texture, but something was amiss, and then it dawned on me- It lacked the comfort of home. It didn't have soul. It made me realize what I was searching for wasn't the best handmade noodles after all, I wanted a piece of home. How I longed to share a meal with someone, even if it was a terrible one. I stared intently at the empty vinyl-covered chair across the table and finished my plate of noodles.
My parents have this playful and resilient DIY spirit, and so it seems to be with most folks of their generation. When I was 7, my dad built my brother and me a fancy desk complete with shelving units, pull-out drawers and cabinets out of scrap wood, while my mom spent weekends in front of the sewing machine making window curtains and duvet covers… matching nonetheless. My brother and I were taught early on that while we could not afford certain luxuries, it should never be a limiting factor to what we could learn to do on our own. It merely posed as a challenge for us to overcome. With that, along came an abundant vegetable garden, homemade model rockets and makeshift forts. It was that inventive spirit in which I am grateful to say we had a childhood full of creativity and imagination.
Growing up, we rarely had the luxury to dine at fancy restaurants, and any chance to eat out usually meant we had visitors in town. It doesn’t mean we didn’t eat well. In fact, thanks to our mom, my brother and I probably ate better than most kids our age. My mom has a great palate and a special knack for deciphering ingredients. She could taste something for the first time, ramble off a list of ingredients and by the following week, we’d find that very same dish on our dinner table. Somewhere along the way, I fortuitously inherited her sleuthing habits.
My cousins and I hosted Mother’s Day Brunch this year. While it would have been easier to make reservations at a fancy restaurant, we decided to honor our moms with a homemade meal. There’s nothing quite like breaking bread with loved ones in the comfort of your home. I made a simple Frittata with fresh ingredients including turkey sausage, baby spinach, ricotta and tons of fresh garlic. We enjoyed our meal with roasted rosemary and garlic red potatoes, crostini topped with creamy Burrata cheese and pistachios, fruit salad and ginger peach Bellinis.
An afternoon delight courtesy of Frozen Kuhsterd at the Forage SF Underground Market this past Saturday in the Mission. The cool velvety rich cream was the perfect accompaniment on a warm Saturday afternoon in the City. The Blue Bottle Frozen … Continue reading →
Many of my fondest childhood memories date back to the years spent in Taipei with my grandparents. About the time I was four, my parents decided to have my grandparents enroll me in a private kindergarten so I could get an early start on learning Mandarin prior to my big move to the States. Everyone thought it was a grand idea… except me.
I’d wake up crying every morning, refusing to get ready for school, and timing my tantrums so that I’d conveniently miss the school bus. At school, I’d kick and scream until the teacher had no choice but to call Grandpa to take me home. I soon discovered how to get home on my own, and by lunch hour, I’d take the liberty to leave school and walk myself home. Needless to say, I was a kid with a bad attitude.
Maybe it was a pleasant change of pace from the previous days of our trip, or maybe it was the perfect escape from the metropolitan madness of Ho Chi Minh City, but there was something so charming about the city of Hội An, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Either way, this quaint little city on the South Central Coast of Vietnam along the South China Sea marks as my favorite city throughout our journey through Vietnam.
It’s a sweltering morning in Ho Chi Minh City. We were winding down the last days of September, and the last I checked, it’s rainy season here in Vietnam… so, what’s with this heat? Our first morning here and I’m already tempted to spend a lazy day in the hotel basking under the AC vent. But I remembered I had an important mission: Feasting a la Anthony Bourdain.
Everything I knew about Bánh xèo I learned from Bourdain’s Travel Channel series, No Reservations. (If you’re not familiar with the series, I highly recommend. Bourdain is a foul-mouthed bad ass and his commentaries are nothing short of brilliance.) I fondly remember Bourdain trekking through Vietnam in one episode, uncovering hole-in-the-wall joints and exploring local favorites as he went. During his visit to Ho Chi Minh City, he highlights Bánh Xèo 46A, a small outdoor restaurant known for their amazing Bánh xèos. Bánh xèo, literally translates as “sizzling cake,” is the Vietnamese-version of a savory crêpe.
I woke up to a street symphony orchestrated by the low rumblings of motorbikes weaving between the steady rhythmic honking from the dozens of cars piled up on the road. In Vietnam, driving is an art. And walking about the city takes guts.
Earlier this year, my cousin Patty mentioned that she had been dying to visit the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia but couldn’t find a travel buddy to join her. Coincidentally, I had just returned from my backpacking trip in Europe with the travel bug in tow. I was ready for my next travel destination, a food tour, if you will. And I couldn’t think of a better place to indulge than Thailand and Vietnam. And just like that, I found myself trekking across four countries in one month.