Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekly Goals

The new job promises tribe very interesting and challenging, but the training right now is taking most of my mental energy, unfortunately. Goals this week are limited.

-Lose 0.6 pounds.
-Walk at least 12,000 steps/day.
-Deep clean our bedroom.
-Read a book.
-Knit 1 skein on Nuvem.
-Eat out no more than 18 meals this week.

The Lantern Festival ended tonight, and there was a really awesome fireworks display here. Then we ate Shanghainese food. I finished a pair of socks and started another. A good day.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Goals In Review

Today was a rough week. There was stress at work and I'm still trying to kick this blasted cold. Being up with a hacking cough for several hours a night is not helping anything, and means I'm exhausted. Not productive.

1. Reach 15,000 steps/day on the pedometer. Pretty sure I managed this four days this week, but I can't be positive, as I forgot my pedometer several days.
2. Take the stairs up to the apartment unless towing the grocery cart. Managed this about half the time.  I tended to forget.

1. Eat no more than 18 of 42 meals out this week. Total fail. Didn't even keep score. 
2. Make and freeze 8 quarts of chicken stock. I did make this much stock. We just ate it all. I never going to get ahead of our soup consumption around here, it seems.
3. Lose a pound. Lost 0.6 pounds. 

1. Finish 2 Chinese lessons. I didn't never start one. Fail. 
2. Read a book. I did! Girls of Riyadh.
3. Attend a social event. I did! And I attempted to go to a second.

1. Finish Macaroon striped socks. I got halfway up the gusset on the second sock.
2. Finish 1 skein of Nuvem. Nope. I need to get cracking if I'm to finish a dozen shawls this year. 

1. Sort out insurance billing issue.
2. Return purchases.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Made Indian Food!

I got out of work at 3:30 today, so I decided to go a bit nuts in the kitchen and take a crack at Indian cooking.

Chicken with Masala Simmer Sauce: I picked up a bottle of this on impulse from Trader Joe's and I simmered chicken breasts in it. I felt this was nowhere near as the good as the rest of the meal, but I might experiment with it again.

Whole Wheat Parathas: I felt these were too dry. Next time I'll get (maybe make?) naan from delicious, carby white flour.

Garam Masala Cauliflower: This was really easy and really tasty. I chopped a head of cauliflower and tossed it with olive oil, salt, and some garam masala. Roasted it in a 420 degree over for 25(ish) minutes, until browned and kind of crunchy. Delicious.

Palak Paneer: Who knew green vegetables could be this yummy! I chopped three onions for deeply browned onions. Near the end of the cooking process, I added a tablespoon of chopped ginger and 4 cloves of chopped garlic. At the same time, I chopped 7 oz. of paneer (I used Nanak brand, as recommended by Tigers and Strawberries) and fried it in a cast iron skillet until crunchy. I added a packet of Rasoi Magic Palak Paneer spices diluted in a cup of milk, per the instructions to the onion mixture and then stirred in a pound of frozen spinach, the fried paneer and a half cup of water. I covered the pan and reduced the heat to low for 15 minutes to let the flavors meld. So, so good. I can't wait to have this for lunch tomorrow. Maybe breakfast.

This was really exciting, and I'm hoping to make more Indian recipes in the future. I'd held off on investing in a collection of spices for a cuisine I don't make often, but I may reconsider.

Baffling Advertisement

I keep seeing this ad on the 7 train. Is it a political statement? An advertisement? What does gun control have to do with self storage units?  (I submit that if one needs an entire storage unit dedicated to one's guns, perhaps some personal gun control, at the very least, would be wise.)

Any ideas?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Biang Biang Mian

CodeMonkey and I decided to make biang biang mian for dinner tonight. At his suggestion, we put them in old* chicken soup.

The soup is a long time hit around here, but we need more practice on the noodles. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't get them thin enough to rival Xian Famous Foods'. More practice is clearly necessary. Next time, I'm going to let the dough rest in between repeated stretchings; that's always how I get my pizza crusts thin.

I ran a long and aggravating errand on Tuesday, but I managed to meet my weekly goal of reading a book this week. The Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsaneah was a great book for an aggravating 3 hours of the subway. It follows 4 upper class Saudi young women in their lives after high school as they navigate love, arranged marriages, education, and foreign cultures. It's formatted as a series of e-mails sent by an anonymous woman. They become the scandalous talk of the whole country for their frank discussions of love and sex amount Saudi women (the actual book was also controversial for the same reasons). Some reviews have compared it to a Saudi Sex and the City, but I thought that was very off base. It really reminded me of Mary McCarthy's classic The Group, which follows a group of Vassar graduates from 1933 as they embark of adult life and romantic misadventures in th cintextof a (much less) controlling and male dominated cultu. I enjoyed the book, but not enough to keep it for rereading. I'll donate it to the library next time they're collecting books. 3/5

*Old chickens are worn out laying hens, sold in Chinese grocery stores. The meat is tough, but very flavorful, and they make the best soup. The soup was freshly made and the bird was fresh meat.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sock Postmortem

I finished these socks on the flight to Malaysia. I wasn't paying attention when I started the heel on the first one and I began it too late (and then I had to make the second sock match the first), so they're a bit too long in the foot for me.

The yarn is Knitpicks' Felici Sport. Colorway is Depths. Needles are a size 0 47" Knitpicks Nickel circular. Cast on 8 stitches using Judy's Magic Cast On. Increase in a star toe pattern to 64 stitches. Fleegle Heel (It is very, very important that you start the setup for this heel as soon as your foot start sloping up to your ankle. Otherwise, it will be too long). 15 rounds of 2x2 ribbing before Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff.

See that bunching at the back of the heel? That's extra length. These are probably better suited to someone with size 10 feet. But they'll do for slipper socks, or I might dry them to shrink them up.

Taking pictures of one's own feet is surprisingly difficult.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


CodeMonkey and I went to IKEA yesterday. Pro: I think we came to an agreement on where we want to go with the apartment, furniture-wise. Cons: I do not have enough money to buy all it. We'll have it prioritize. We ate at Johnny Rocket's. I was underwhelmed, but the view from the Seaport was gorgeous. Werther's Original was doing some kind of promotional event, handing out free candy. They had a photo booth and we took an awful picture.

I'm trying to get back into the swing of goal setting. So, for this week:

1. Reach 15,000 steps/day on the pedometer.
2. Take the stairs up to the apartment unless towing the grocery cart.

1. Eat no more than 18 of 42 meals out this week.
2. Make and freeze 8 quarts of chicken stock.
3. Lose a pound.

1. Finish 2 Chinese lessons.
2. Read a book.
3. Attend a social event.

1. Finish Macaroon striped socks.
2. Finish 1 skein of Nuvem.

1. Sort out insurance billing issue.
2. Return purchases.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back Home

We're back from Malaysia! We have been for several days, actually. Somewhere in Malaysia, my cold transformed from a mild sniffle into full-on "I AM DYING OF CONSUMPTION" style coughing. Apologies to anyone on the plane with me from Dubai to New York the other day. I spent the ride clinging to CodeMonkey while hacking away, probably making every other passenger on the plane hate me.

The cough is problematic for a number of reasons:

1. I no longer sleep. I'm waking up coughing multiple times a night.
2. CodeMonkey is no longer sleeping. (See above.)
3. My entire torso hurts, so I've stopped eating. I sense this is counter productive in the long run.
4. I think I'm distracting all my coworkers and worrying upper management.

The one consolation is that it's way nicer to miserable and ill on my own lovely, squishy mattress than on the rock-hard sorry excuse for a mattress they had at the hotel. My FIL says hard mattresses are good for the spine, but I'm skeptical.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hakka Food

Last night, we met my in-laws for dinner at Hakka in Kuala Lumpur. My in-laws had their wedding banquet here back in the day and they wanted to show it to us. The characters for Hakka mean "guest families," because the Hakka migrated from central China down to Fujian and Guandong provinces long ago. This means their food and language are very different than many southern Chinese. Per usually, we deferred to my FIL's expertise and had him order. Here's what I remember:

-Lemon Chicken I've had this before at American Chinese restaurants. This one had more dark meat and was breaded in something more dense than the American version. I think the breeding was flour based; I know a lot of American Chinese restaurants use cornstarch based breading. The sauce was tangy and lemony and not too sweet  and I could have eaten it with a spoon.

-Hakka Noodles My FIL says they made these noodles by hand in the restaurant kitchen. They were very chewy and sort of like thick spaghetti. The texture had a nice bounciness, which is a signature of the dish. They were served with fried ground pork, scallions and some kind of soy sauce. Very nice.

-Yam Leaves I was introduced to these Chinese vegetables when some friends hosted us for dinner, and they quickly became a staple in our house. They're my favorite green, and this was one of the best renditions I've ever had. The stems were fresh and crunchy and the dish was intensely garlicky. One of the hallmarks of good Chinese cooking is wok hei, literally "breath of the wok." It's a sort of indescribable smoky, oily, rich taste that you get by cooking food in a very hot, well seasoned wok. It is very difficult to attain in a home setting because residential gas burners don't get hot enough. The wok hei on these vegetables was fantastic, and it really added and extra something to the dish.

-Shark Fin Lettuce Wraps I wish I remember what this dish was called. Shark fin is a Chinese delicacy, so I was excited to try it. The shark fin was shredded with crab meat, tiny shrimp and fried egg. Normally the dish includes mushrooms and black fungus, but my FIL was kind enough to leave them out since CodeMonkey and I dislike them. You scoop the mixture into lettuce leaves and roll them up before eating. It was a very nice and rich dish, though I'm not sure I understand what all the fuss was about.

-Almond Pudding with Longan The restaurant's owner made this specially for my ILs as it wasn't on the menu. The pudding was tofu-based, I think, and intensely, almost overpoweringly almondy. I let CodeMonkey have most of my portion because I wasn't a huge fan. It was served with longans on top. I have wanted to try these for ages, but they are normally sold 3 pounds for $10 in my neighborhood, and I didn't want to spend that kind of money on a fruit I might not like. They were delicious, a more tender, delicately flavored lychee. I'll definitely be buying more of these back in the States.

-Glutinous Rice Balls in Ginger Syrup These are a common Chinese desert. The balls are a dumpling made of glutinous rice flour, and they're stuffed with black sesame paste. This was one of the better renditions I've had; the dumplings had a nice resistance before biting, and I wish there were more of them. In the past, I've had these served in plain warm sugar syrup, and the ginger was a fantastic addition. It was so spicy it made my mouth tingle. I couldn't finish it, and CodeMonkey helped me out.

Monday, September 3, 2012

We Eat A Lot

CodeMonkey has started working now, so we moved into the hotel room his company got for us. T's way nicer than anything I've stayed in before, and I'm tickled.

CodeMonkey is working in the Petronas Twin Towers. They're absolutely gorgeous, but every time someone calls them "The Twin Towers" my Inner American twitches. We visited the shopping mall on the lower levels last night. Sine foreign tourists often go to Malaysia to shop, salesmen kept trying to catch my attention while ignoring CodeMonkey. It was funny.

Before we checked into the hotel yesterday, we went to another outdoor food court for mee hoon kueh. These are strips of noodle dough dropped into a pot of boiling anchovy stock. Once the noodles cook, vegetables are added and more dried anchovies sprinkled on top. I loved the noodles and tolerated the anchovies. My FIL says it's a traditional Fujianese dish. Most Chinese Malaysians' ancestors were Fujianese and today Chinese Malaysians speak Fujianese/Hokkein, which is very different from the more well known Mandarin and Cantonese.

We ate lunch in the hotel's cafe yesterday. I was craving familiar food and had a burger, which was distinctly lackluster. I'd be disappointed, but I guess it's my fault for being in Kuala Lumpur and ordering a cheeseburger.

For a snack we ordered toast with kaya. CodeMonkey says this is a very Malaysian thing. You spread kaya, which is this jam made of coconut milk and eggs on slices of toasted white bread. The kaya is delicious; the texture reminds me of dulce de leche. My MIL says it keeps badly so we can't bring any home, but I'm hoping to try my hand at making it some time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dim Sum

I woke up when the call to prayer for fajr began, so I might as well blog. Yesterday we picked up CodeMonkey's grandmother and went out for dim sum. His grandmother is a very sweet lady, though she only speaks their dialect of Fuzhou, so we couldn't communicate without someone acting as translator.

We went to a dim sum house in Kuala Lumpur. There was an awkward moment where a waitress went to talk to my MIL after we we're seated. I could see them both looking st me; apparently the waitress was concerned that I wouldn't be able to eat with chopsticks. After that was sorted, we ordered and the food arrived. I didn't get to sample all the dishes, but here's what I remember.

-Har gow Mastery of these little shrimp dumplings is the test of any good dim sum chef, and these were excellent. The skin wasn't waterlogged, but had a nice spring to it and stuck nicely to the filling. The shrimp were fully deveined and very briny tasting. All the seafood is so much better than what I usually get in the U.S.

-Siu Mai Lovely pork and shrimp dumplings. I've had siu mai where the filling was rubbery from being steamed incompetently, but these were very tender and juicy. They had a nice fish roe on top.

-Xiao Long Bao My FIL advised us against ordering these, since the skins were thick st this place, but my BIL, husband and I shared an order. They were tasty enough, but badly constructed. None of us were able to get them from the steamer to a spoon without the skin breaking, releasing the soupy goodness everywhere.

-Congee with fish This was rice porridge with scallion, fried fish, and sliced whitefish. The soup broth was much more flavorful than most congee I've had in the States. I adore all things porridge, so it was hard for this to go wrong, but it was fantastic. They brought it to the table right away, so the fried fish was still very crunchy, and finding the pieces was like getting a prize at the bottom of a cereal box. The sliced white fish was very tender; my FIL says dim sum chefs spend years learning to properly cut fish.

-Radish Cake I like radishes, who knew? These was grated radish, pressed into a cake and fried in XO sauce. It was served with sprouts, eggs, scallions and bonito. This was fantastic, though I added the bonito.

-Char Siu/Char Siu Bao This was the one disappointment. The char siu was much too fatty and sugary for me to manage, and the filling in the bao was so sugary it made my teeth hurt.

My BIL tells me visiting malls is the Malaysian national pastime and we went to two today. We visited an IT mall, which was a five story mall that sold nothing but electronics. I have the attention span of a gnat at the best of times, and with so many screens, I didn't even know where to look.

We visited a very fancy shopping mall in KL, the Pavillion. It was very high end; I spotted Gucci and Prada stores along with H+M and a bunch of local stores. My FIL took us to a Taiwanese shaved ice place, where I had a milk tea. All their shaved ice options had grass jelly, of which I'm not a fan. The tea was nice, though. We visited a 5 ringgit shop, which is like an American dollar store. This one was Japanese owned, and I was tempted to buy some of the beautiful Japanese dessert pamphlets, but I decided that recipes in a foreign language are useless to me.

We came home and I fell asleep, missing dinner. I must have not completely adjusted to the time difference.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Meeting my in-laws was as lovely and uneventful as one could hope. They are wonderful, but then they raised my wonderful husband, so that only made sense.

Today my FIL took us on a day trip down to Melaka. Melaka/Malacca was a center of Portuguese, Dutch and British trade and colonialization at various times, and it has some of the oldest buildings in the country. In theory, we were there to show me pieces of Malaysia's history, but when my in-laws take trips, it's all about the food, so we ate at one restaurant after another all day. This is definitely not a complaint.

-I ate durian cendol, which is a local specialty. I was not a fan of durian. Even once I got over the smell to taste it, I didn't find the flavor to my liking. We had gula melaka (palm sugar) cendol later in the day, and that was very nice.

-We went to a food court for breakfast. These are outdoor yards with tables, ringed by vendors. Each vendor pays rent to the court owner, and you order your food at each stall. I had char kway teow, which is a fried noodle dish. I'd had it before in America, but this was a hundred time better. I could eat this all day. And it had cockles! As in, "with silver bells and cockle shells, and wee little maids in a row." My MIL says they are called lalas in Bahasha Melayu. Watermelon juice, which is expensive back in the US, is cheap here, and that made me happy.

-We ate Nyonya food for dinner. Nyonya are the descendants of Chinese migrants who came to Malaysia 500 years ago, intermarried with the locals, and created their own culture. They are famous for being excellent cooks. My FIL ordered so many dishes I can't remember them all. We had chicken rendang, which is a spicy stew with, I think, a coconut base. There was squid coated in turmeric and fried. I've never enjoyed squid before, but this was so fresh and tender and didn't squeak on the teeth. We had okra too. I'd only had okra boiled until slimy before this, so it was a revelation. It was very tender and crunchy and reminded me of green beans. There was also yam leaves, fried chicken, tofu, and probably other dishes I am forgetting.

-We passed by a machine making Amoy waffles. I wish I had taken a picture of the machine. They're small waffles shaped like a fish, filled with pandan flavored coconut jelly. Very tasty. my BIL said they were overpriced and you were paying for the packaging, but the packaging is adorable.

-My FIL bought mochi, which is rolled in ground, sweetened peanuts.  I thought this was a Japanese treat, but my FIL says it's Chinese in origin. 

-Unfortunately, I am an idiot and forgot to use sunblock. Since I'm glow in the dark pale, I got a bit of a burn from walking around outside. My FIL says the sun is stronger here because we're near the equator. My MIL fussed over me and gave me a UV blocking parasol to use and we picked up sunblock on the way home.