31 December 2016

hamster wheel

It's been a while haha.

30 December 2016

Pad Thai

Reporting back on the Pad Thai capstone: satisfactory results. Now I feel validated to complain about shitty restaurant / take-out pad thai.

I followed SheSimmers' recipe fairly closely with the following modifications:
  • Used soy sauce instead of fish sauce in the sauce (oh my thats a lot of sauce in one sentence). Mostly because I didn't want to buy another bottle of fish sauce for Ajax when I had a lot leftover back downtown. For future iterations, I'll use a 1:1 ratio of soy to fish sauce. 
  • Used brown sugar instead of palm sugar, and Chinese rock sugar instead of brown sugar in the sauce. Not a good idea since it took forever to melt the rock sugar. For future iterations, I'll probably keep the brown sugar sub but use honey or whatever unrefined sugar I pick up at Bulk Barn for the rest of the sweetener. 
  • Didn't use shrimp, so I was mostly left on my own to figure out the timing of how long to cook the noodles for. My impression from reading her recipe is that there's real danger of overcooking the noodles, which did not turn out to be the case (perhaps I bought a different kind of rice noodles?). In fact I had the opposite problem of the noodles taking a long time to cook through. I needed to add extra water at the end and steam the noodles for a bit with the lid on to soften the noodles to al-dente. 
  • Used more chives and also cooked it and the bean sprouts since I don't like raw veggies too much. Sticking with this method for future iterations. 
  • Used onions instead of shallot, because too much trouble to stock another allium. 
  • Cut the salted preserved radish into strips instead of a fine dice since it's easier to pick up along with the noodles. 
  • I like a ton of chopped peanuts (and the juice of an entire quarter of lime cause sour = my preferred dominate flavour in pad thai) as garnish. Bonus for using spicy peanuts. 

Here's a handy pictorial guide of my version:

The black numbers are the cooking order. Let me be proud of my mise, it makes cooking so much easier when you can just grab containers and dump its entire content in. Kenji is always right in you can never have too many metal bowls.

29 December 2016

photo workflow

This is an attempt at establishing a SoP for managing my travel photos, which is embarrassingly scattered over a whole bunch of sources:

  • Facebook - food, people, and select scenery, aka things other people are interested in
  • Blog - food and my pick of scenery, or things I have words to match to
  • Random folders scattered on my desktop - "working" files, current workflow is a subfolder for full size jpg back-up (after a round of initial picking from camera), any raws that I've edited, edited and resized for web jpgs, any print files. Works fine since I can dump the entire folders into my external HD afterwards. 
  • Photos app - anything I share with family and all scenery photos
  • External HD - archive
To further increase the length of this list, I'm adding a tumblr where every edited jpg goes (basically collecting fb and blog photos in once place) and also Google Photos that back ups every jpg although not at full size. 

Now for the mammoth task of going through all the aforementioned sources and populating the tumblr...

I must be crazy for going through Gritaly photos, but this is the first photo that I liked as a photo:
There's been a print of this on my wall ever since

Also editing these old photos made me realize how much difference a simple s-curve can make to a cloudy day photo.

27 December 2016

baking cheats

I recall an episode on the ATK podcast when the conversation turned to that a lot of people feel cooking is a creative expression, or more accurately, a daily task that they have complete control over and thus can be creative. Unfortunately I don't fall into that camp, rather I feel that I'll never learn the rules well enough to start breaking them.

Especially baking substitutions.
In an attempt to learn the rulers better, here's a summary of various articles by Stella at Serious Eats.

Citrus Syrup
Used up rinds + 50% sugar by weight = syrup, yay.

Toasted Sugar
Caramelization = thermal decomposition of sugar, occurs independently of melting.
Bake sugar in oven @ 300F, stirring every 30min. Can bake for 1-5 hours.

Brown vs White Sugar
Granulated sugar (white): 99% sucrose / neutral
Brown Sugar (light): 95% sucrose + molasses / acidic

In recipe with:
  • baking soda
    • white sugar doesn't react - dense, chewy
    • brown sugar reacts to produce CO2 - puffy, cakey
  • creaming with butter
    • brown sugar - compacts and traps steam - spreads less, more moist
    • white sugar: aerates dough - puffy
  • melted butter
    • brown sugar: speeds up gluten development - thick, chewy
    • white sugar: interferes with gluten development - more spread, tender, crisp

Effects of Egg on Cookies
  • Egg whites entrap more air while contributing more water, encouraging steam and gluten formation: perfect conditions for lean cookies that are thick and puffy. Cakey. 
  • Yolks cut the water and throw in fat, hindering both gluten development and aeration, producing cookies that are dense, tender, and rich. Fudge.
  • Generally speaking, when recipes call for melted butter or whipped eggs, yolks produce fudgier cookies, while whites make them cakes. 
  • When recipes call for butter creamed until light and fluffy, the reverse is true: Yolks tend toward cakey cookies, while whites make them fudgey.

Baking Power
Baking powder: ( alkali + acid ) + acid; first step reacts in presence of moisture to "seed" CO2, second acid is heat activated to provide most of lift while baking to counteract tendency of moist dough to collapse.

Baking Soda
In cookie dough, acid comes from dry ingredients (cocoa or brown sugar), thus no reaction occurs until butter is melted while baking - can keep dough in fridge for extended time unlike cake batter where acidic ingredients are usually liquid (buttermilk, yogurt, coffee).

High pH:

  • slows protein coagulation - uniform thickness
  • weakens gluten - tender
  • speeds up mallard reaction - browns more

Creaming Butter & Sugar
Less dense!!

  • Slower conduction - less spread
  • Less air pockets for baking soda / baking powder to work with
Use butter at ~60F, cut into smaller pieces & check temperature. Add cold eggs.

per pound

A donut looking bundt cake is as festive as this winter holiday will get for me. No complaints about a delicious cake. Also no complaints about sleeping double digit hours everyday, mm.

24 December 2016


Still recovering my energy so any deep reflections about the year will have to wait.

But meanwhile I'm making a list of things I want to make for the year ahead:
  • Breads, all sorts of breads: my trusty no-effort no-knead foccacia (that once ballooned into a pita), Irish soda bread, and a cheater's sourdough. I'll get to brad about one more use of my dutch oven. Also skillet pizza, because I've screwed up the seasoning in my skillet.
  • Cookies, because too many late-night cravings for these: honey walnut, brownies (soft plz), chocolate chip cookies 1 (my super cake-y one), 2 (Kenji cannot be wrong), and 3 (Deb also cannot be wrong).
  • Cakes, need some staple recipes: yogurt cake, and fruit cake
  • Veggies + indian spices: I've never been a big fan of chinese stir fried veggies, aka either with garlic or with peppercorn. Maybe this for spring, and this with roast meat, or whenever I haul myself to Bulk Barn for spices. Also chickpeas.
  • Capstone projects: pad thai for the winter break, salted caramel cheesecake brownies for once undergrad is done.

If I've learned anything from first semester, it's that cooking, tea and hot showers are the most effective ways to stay sane. 

20 December 2016


On the opposite end of my usual shoe obsessions:

hnnnggg ;_; (mostly at the heel design)

17 December 2016

nine bends

Another semester done, yay.

Rui was not one bit surprised by me celebrating with tea, cooking, and catching up with the internet (aka drooling over yet another teapot).

15 December 2016


exam music part 2

one more final to write!

13 December 2016


I'm procrastinating but hey at least it's related to ocean (waves and currents!)

Murakami quotation, where he's quoting Joseph Conrad I believe. 

09 December 2016


Ahh finals time is great, time to marathon manga & time to cook *u*

zucchini frittata, with my usual no-knead bread that somehow ballooned into a pita

08 December 2016


Exam music part 1:

But also two interludes between all the electronic music:

Just not very compatible with tuning out to study to :(

07 December 2016

white chocolate

3 months and 2 accidental matching outfits:

06 December 2016


Half way through this view.

05 December 2016


Food things from begone days:

  A day when I craved fancy breakfast. Tahini plus sugar on toast is fantastic.

The first bowl of ramen after coming back from Japan. It was not a good idea to order the same style as my last bowl in Japan, no comparison. Extra menma is always good though. Also, I can again say I've gone to every ramen restaurant within my vicinity.

The best iteration of 宫保鸡丁so far. 

Appropriate tea for the weather

04 December 2016



So the previous string of 张学友 songs is all because a couple lines from this song was stuck in my head and I tried in vain to find the corresponding song. Deluded myself into thinking that one of the first two songs that I posted was it. But alas today I finally did find it, through dumb luck really. There ought to be a shrine of dumb luck that I can go pray at.

你瘦了憔悴得让我好心疼   有时候爱情比时间还残忍
把人变得盲目而奋不顾身   忘了爱要两个同样用心的人

你醉了脆弱得藏不住泪痕   我知道绝望比冬天还寒冷
你恨自己是个怕孤独的人   偏偏又爱上自由自私的灵魂

你带着它唯一写过的情书   想证明当初爱得并不糊涂
他曾为了你的逃离颓废痛苦   也为了破镜重圆抱着你哭

哦 可惜爱不是几滴眼泪几封情书 哦---   这样的话或许有点残酷
等待着别人给幸福的人   往往过的都不怎么幸福
哦 可惜爱不是忍着眼泪留着情书 哦---   伤口清醒要比昏迷痛楚
禁闭着双眼又拖着错误   真爱来临时 你要怎么留得住

 The lyrics remind me of this song.