28 February 2015


Some Rou Gui tea to ease the midterm woes:

Gongfu brewing for 1 requires all the tea cup in my possession to hold the minimum amount of water my kettle boil.

This time I tried the dry warming method instead of my usual wet method. The wet method consist of pouring boiling water into the pot, pouring it out and then putting in the leafs. On the other hand, I first put in the leaves and then poured hot water on the outside of the pot. Scroll down in this article for an in depth explanation, though I don't follow the ChaoZhou method. This resulted in a very chocolate-y and malty aroma, which I haven't experience in this tea before. Also finally tasted a hint of the cinnamon that Rou Gui is suppose to have, but I'm not sure if this can be attributed to the warming method.

27 February 2015


Proof that energy exists in discreet quantas via breakfast: was toasting bagels on medium heat for ~10mins, no change in colour. Turns heat to high and it burns in less an a minute.

In other news: designer grocery packaging is awesome.

26 February 2015

Run when the rhythms right

Though the remix is more study-friendly.

25 February 2015

on cooking

You should follow The Food Lab, it's rigorous cooking. It's also a weekly column in Serious Eats, and they're currently running Vegan Month right now. Unsurprisingly it was started by Kenji, who also runs The Food Lab.

(psst Serious Eats, btw my favourite food website, also have a couple good articles on tea. see 1, 2, 3 in that order)

This fried....vegetables with spaghetti is inspired by a couple of techniques and recipes that Kenji developed for Vegan Month.

First it's fried vegetables with noodles because the ratios are reversed (inspo #1) from traditional fried noodles. This has more vegetables than noodles, in fact the cabbage in there alone is double the noodles.

The other vegetables accompanying the cabbage are onions, sugar peas, and shiitake mushrooms. The onions are somewhat caramelized since I don't have the patience, or more importantly time, on a day when class ends at 6 and the hardest midterm of the semester is just 2 days away to actually caramelize onion. The trick is to cut the onion first, and leave it cooking in the pan while you do the rest of your prep.

There's also some lentils (inspo #2) in there for a textual contrast and protein boost. It plays the role of my yummy minced meat (aka ground pork with preserved mustard leaf). 

Other time saving tricks:
  • Cooking order matters. Lentils take ~20 mins to cook, so that was the first step. Since both boiling lentils and browning onions are hands off tasks that also require the most time, start them before the prep of the rest of the ingredients.
  • Reuse. This is rather specific to this dish, but vegetable scraps (inner onion skin, shiitake mushroom stalks) went into the lentil's cooking liquid to add more flavour and the cooking liquid is then used to boil the spaghetti, and finally used as part of the sauce for the final dish. 
  • Char vegetables (inspo #3), since it frees you to chop additional vegetables which is easily the most time consuming task. Plus charred vegetables taste better.
Additional thoughts on the dish:
  • Layering flavour is the key. It currently has nice base and mid notes (sweet onion, mushroom) but would greatly benefit from some higher notes. Maybe add some herbs next time, like green onions or some pickled radishes.
  • This is very much improved by having an egg on top. The omlette shape of the egg is just the result of my bad flipping skills, but I do like how folding the egg left the inside creamy, which contrasts nicely with the charred outside. Will start folding my fried eggs from now on. 
  • On the topic of including eggs, I don't see myself ever going vegan. I love my yogurt and eggs too much. Surprisingly I don't miss meat much when I don't have them for prolonged periods. On the other hand, no vegetables for a couple of meals is painful. But contrary to my belief, cooking vegetarian dishes isn't less time consuming since there's just so darn many vegetables to chop. It does make washing dishes easier. 
Cooking in general, follows the 3rd rule of engineering that is "to find the answer you must know the answer". To cook something that taste good, you must be able to conceive the flavour profile beforehand.


I really shouldn't be writing a long blog post when concrete midterm is on Friday.

22 February 2015


When can it stop looking like this?

21 February 2015

year of the ram

Belated Chinese New Year celebration with family by making dumplings. I'm in charge of rolling out the skins.

Freshly made with lots of love (or rather 3 hours of labour for ~100 dumplings) does taste a heck lot better.


Previous family dinner during winterlicious:

Mostly alright  but I do like confit and gnocchi. I am pretty over the -licious events.

20 February 2015

second look at NYC

In summary:
  • I drank more tea than I planned
  • Ate much less than I expected
  • Museums are great
  • It's all in your attitude
Let's break these down.

1. Harney & Sons: paris blend
$6 for a pot of tea is a little pricy, but there was free wifi and I was really cold from walking around lower Manhattan. The shop is pretty nice, but I prefer the more niche places. Apparently they have good scones, but I was saving my stomach.

2. T Shop: charcoal roasted cui feng and aged heavy roasted oolong
This shop is much more of my style, bonus points that the store owner loves MUJI as well. It's $10 per tasting, but I'm fairly certain I was offered more than the usual amount of steepings as I came in when some old customers were around. We just ended up chatting for a long time, and hence drinking many infusions.

3. HK style milk tea at Tai Pan bakery
I thought it'd be like Marathon's, but woah they're worlds apart. This was gross, aka super weak tea via a Lipton tea bag. Their egg tart was great though, very creamy filling with a flakey crust:

4. Kajitsu / Ippodo: hot yuzu tea, matcha, iribancha,and hosen sencha (but I bought kumpu sencha instead since it came in a smaller package)

Aside: woah I paid $17 for my 50g bag, whereas it's $8.40 online? What is this...

But the sencha taste amazing. A hint of grass, and a good balance of sweet and bitter (leaning towards sweet). So much more flavour than Chinese green teas, though I do love my 竹叶青. Also managed to get around 5 infusions out of one brew. I'm definitely looking forward to trying more of their offerings, and hopefully attend a workshop the next time I visit. I regret not chatting more with the shop keeper, but I was feeling embarrassed to stay longer as I took the entire 2 hours that Kajitsu was open for lunch to finish my meal. The shop keeper was super nice too, he asked about my preferences and choose a hosen sencha out of their line up to brew for me to try.

5. Fang's Gourmet Tea: charcoal roasted lishan oolong and 2009 liubao
This place was recommened to me by T Shop's owner, and I'm glad I missioned up to Flushing to visit. First tasting is another charcoal roasted lishan oolong. This one alternated between smelling fruity and tasting vegetal, and vice versa. It also had a lingering after taste.

The second tasting is my first time trying a 六堡 (liu bao), love it! This one is processed differently, with no withering under the sun. It brewed into a deep gold liquor, with not much smell. The shop keeper first brewed it, and then boiled it for later infusions. Tasted earthy / mossy at the beginning of both the brew and boil, and was then very sweet, like dates. I was so tempted to buy this.
This was also an unusual tasting, which is normally either $5 or 10 per 5 steepings. But since I came on Chinese New Years, and there weren't other customers (aside from another old customer that we leisurely chatted with), I was able to enjoy 10+ steepings of the liu bao. The shop keeper even gave me candy :D

This has been pretty extensively covered, but here's what didn't make an appearance yet:
 Taro pun and pastry from Fay Da Bakery.

 Cheesecake from Lady M
Was not happy that they sold out of their signature crepe cakes, but really it's my fault that I went near closing time. Their cakes are pricy at $7-8 a) slice, but they are really good. This one is very decadent without being too rich.

and the best dish I've had all trip, in terms of taste along (Kajitsu is the best in terms of overall dining experience):
Xi'An Famous food: noodles and silken tofu

You just have to try it for yourself.
I went to their original location, which is in a super sketch, basement food court. The crowded hole in wall places are guaranteed to have good food haha. This experience kind of reminded me of eating at the food court in beijings 王府井, but really just the general atmosphere. Alex and I didn't have much of an appetite then, couldn't even finish one plate of lotus fried rice together. I surprised myself by finishing the noodles and most of the tofu, a feat considering I've been drinking tea non stop at Fang's for 2 hours beforehand.

Another random memory:
Riding on the 7 train to flushing reminds me of sitting on the train heading into London from Heathrow. It's really a superficial similarity, both trains are above ground, the stations look about the same. Too bad the 7 train's announcements aren't in a British accent :(

And related to the 7 train, but a couple days earlier:
Had a TTC moment on the MTA, four 7 trains passed in the other direction before the one I needed came.

They're warm, has free wifi, and takes more than the whole day to explore.

Starbucks are the next best thing. They are godsent for free wifi and a place to warm up. It's time to be obnoxious and just sit for a long while.

part 1
What surprised me are my friends' general negative view on traveling alone. Out of everyone I've talked to, only 2 people had excitement as their initial reaction. Far more common was "why are you going by yourself?!" Perhaps it's because they are concerned about my safety? I should've been unapologetic in my answer. Traveling with people is great, it certainly makes it easier to eat out (well it may complicate the decision of where, but you can split food!) but traveling alone is great too, in different ways.

part 2
You’d think travelling alone gives you a lot of time to think. To think about grand questions like “why am I in New York?”. Well that question did occasionally pop into my mind, often as I am waiting for the subway to arrive in the unheated stations, but I did not have the efforts to pursue an answer*. Because when you are travelling alone, there are far more urgent questions that require answering, such as
-Am I going in the right direction?
-Am I doing good for time?
-Is my hand securely placed over my bag?
-My phone’s still in my pockets right?

So no, contrary to my expectations, I did not think much about profound matters.

*The best I’ve got is that if I didn’t go on this trip, I’d be in Toronto thinking “why am I not elsewhere?"

part 3
The magic of traveling is all about the mindset that it brings. You are more eager to explore your surroundings, and you are appropriately rewarded. When else will you subway for one and half hour for the sake of one tea shop? Or walk for a whole day when it's -20 with windchill out? That's my lesson learned from this trip, and I hope that I can summon this mindset while in Toronto.

19 February 2015


This is the highlight of my trip, though today's experience at Fang's and Xi'An Famous food is amazing as well.

Kajitsu is a restaurant that specializes in shojin cuisine, which you can read more on their about page. But it's vegan food, and damn good regardless of the fact that it's vegan. See Serious Eats for better photos and writing.

But here's my experience:

The dining area is on the second floor of a row house, interior is very Japanese in aesthetics, down to the tokonoma (alcove).

The restaurant only has seasonal prix-fixe that changes once a month. It's a nice touch to add context to the menu items with some background info on the festivals and traditions happening during the month. For February, it's the beginning of spring (ha I wish, why is it still -20?)

Hot yuzu tea
Since this is the splurge meal of the trip, I ordered a drink alongside my meal. Yuzu is a citrus fruit, so you could say this is just a hot lemon tea. But regardless of whether it's a mere psychological effect, this tasted delicious. Plus the cup has interesting glazing (shino?).

I read somewhere that in western restaurants with several tiers of tasting menu, the more expensive options usually contain rarer ingredients. Whereas in kaiseki with several tiers, the more expensive options have rarer tableware.

As Kajitsu mentions on their website:
The dishes used at Kajitsu were specially selected for this space, and include pieces created by master Japanese potters over 200 years ago as well as works by modern ceramic artists.
Since the unique color and quality of these pieces cannot be reproduced, dishes are carefully repairedif they are chipped or damaged. You may notice small patches on some of the dishes used at Kajitsu; this is an indication of our deep respect for the work of old masters, and for the shojin tradition of frugality and respect.

So prepare to see some beautiful tableware, like the spoon and tofu container below:

 First course: black soybean tofu, umeboshi (pickled plum) soup and rice.

Umeboshi soup - the sourness is very appetizing, and goes well with the rice. The flavour is repetitive with the yuzu tea, but I still loved it though. The 3 spheres in the soup are: umeboshi, golden beet, and mochi.

The tofu tasted like the soy beans, aka what it should taste like. It's also very creamy but light. I would definitely take chilled tofu over ice cream.

The rice was also perfectly made. Each grain is distinct but sticks to each other, and subtly sweet tasting. Made me realize that I make really shitty rice, maybe that's why I like noodles more.

A couple close ups, because I was so impressed by the first course. Though the photos aren't great quality because a) iPhone camera and b) I was more focused on eating

Then we move onto the second course, which is a white miso hotpot, with tempura, and ponzu daikon.

 Miso hotpot
There are lotus ball, brussels sprouts (surprisingly delicious in this dish), and various fu (wiki, but read this instead). I thought the broth was too oily, making this my least favourite dish out of the meal.

The tempura is fantastic though:
 Tempura with fu, vegetables, and a daikon flower. With dipping salt.
The vegetable tempura were mind-blowing, because the vegetables were actually well cooked prior to deep frying. This improves the vegetable's own taste, and increases the textural contrast between the soft interior and crisp crust. Also the use of salt instead of the typical dipping sauce preserves the lovely crust. Hands down best tempura I've had, though I really want to visit this tempura restaurant in Tokyo.

 A refreshing side: grated daikon with ponzu sauce, mushroom and scallions. 

By the end of the second course, I was full. But the Chazuke turned out to be really delicious.
 Chazuke with mustard leaves and pickles.

 Pouring the tea in

The mustard leaf is perfect. Nothing else needs to be said aside from the fact that the pickles also go well with the rice porriage.

Lastly dessert. I actually choose the 3 course prix-fixe with the rice, and added the additional matcha and sweets.
Matcha, sweets, and complimentary iribancha (a smoky kyoto tea)

Isn't it so cute that the sweets match the store's logo? All the tea are from Ippodo downstairs, which I'll talk more about in a roundup post. The matcha with sweets are quintessentially what they are. The iribancha is very smokey, it was a little shocking since it was my first time having smokey tea. Initially I didn't like the taste, which is entirely of the roasting, but smokiness subdued as I kept drinking and ended up appreciating the flavour more by the end of it. The smokiness should go well with the other dessert choices, especially the fu-manju.

Needless to say, you gotta eat here when in New York. I'm definitely going for the dinner menu next time.

18 February 2015


Hands down favourite museum.
It has a vast collection and beautiful spaces to display them. Can I just live there?

Egyptian column capital.

I only had time to really look at their Asian Arts collection in depth today.
(sidenote, it was really a pain to straighten and correct white balance these photos)

This convinced me that in 国画, it's more about what you don't paint.

If I build a tea house, this is where my guests can wash.

I was actually shocked when I turned the corner and saw this. It's so bold.

A couple of my favourite pottery pieces. There are a lot of 青花瓷 (blue and white) on display, as well as celadon.


Also went to Kitchen Arts & Letters, and it was everything this video promised.

17 February 2015


Kajitsu will have to wait until I get back, too tired to process photos today.

Meanwhile, Grand Central Terminal and the Fifth Avenue New York Public Library are beautiful.

Grand Central:

which is smaller than I thought. Actually the whole station was smaller than I imagined.

But it's all good since I found my fancy yogurt. It's super creamy. Ohhhh soooo creamy.

Main concourse ceiling
I only wish the constellation stood out more in photos. It is gorgeous in person.


Public Library:


 Hallway ceiling

 Stairwell ceiling


All that marble and detailing.

Walking around:

 Bryant Park's frozen fountain

 Around Bryant Park

New York Times tower
Glass facades are useful for reflecting sunsets

MUJI Times Square
Why does Toronto MUJI not have the MUJI book?!

16 February 2015


Day 2 of New York, felt even colder than yesterday despite being warmer in actuality.

Met up with Patricia & Peter at Carnegie Deli for a very filling brunch. I was so nervous that we'd miss each other since I was late by ~20 minutes, but it turned out that they were also late by the same amount of time. Since the deli is rather famous, we waited outside for 20 more minutes, which felt like eternity when you can't feel your toes.

But all's good with food like this:
Corned beef sandwich and matzoh ball soup. Plus a slice of shared cheesecake. 

Its always really nice catching up with old friends that you don't see often. Warm fuzzies.

Next was a disappointing trip to Uniqlo, because they sold out of heattech leggings. Please understand what a tragedy this is. At least it allowed me to spend more time at MoMA.

In retrospect, it was not such a good idea to head to MoMA on a holiday. It was quite crowded, which is not a good environment to appreciate art.

But luckily the museum has good views to the outside, which is a refreshing break from the pieces inside.

Onto the exhibits.

Uneven growth:

I credit this exhibit as the reason why I took this trip in the first place. I was quite on the fence about going to New York again as:
  • my previous bed&breakfast (which I absolutely loved) no longer offers bunk beds
  • tickets weren't as cheap as last year
  • Grace ditched me!
But on the other hand there was Ippodo & Kajitsu (stay tuned) and all the other wonderful places I didn't visit last time, including MoMA. So when I found out that they had an exhibit on urban growth, which I really care about, the train of thought essentially went: yolo.

I'm still not very sure how much this relates to modern art, but the exhibit it very nicely set up with various media. It could have been informative, but that's from me looking at it from a technical perspective (aka not sure how feasible all those solar panels are).

Moving onto more artsy art:

Two pieces that I liked from the traditional media side of modern art. The piece on the left really reminds me of Tekkon Kintreet.

There was also the famous Campbell soups:

and then I found out that MoMA has impressionist paintings,
 Starry Night / The Olive Trees

including my favourite artist Van Gogh, probably because I adore his brushstrokes.

There was also Monet, including his giant Water Lilies, but I like his Agapanthus more:

The brushstrokes, especially the strokes with vivid colours.

I also like:

Aside from paintings:

Not sure what the piece in the left photo is, but I really like how the lighting was set up. The piece on the right is the 4D Kinematic Dress, but I also really like the lighting set up.

Overall an enjoyable visit.