Sunday, March 21, 2010


When I was in high school, I spent a ridiculous amount of time at my friend Julia’s house. I was there so much that I would sometimes be the one making afternoon snacks for her little brothers when they’d come home from school. Other times, I would spend the night and make breakfast with her mom the next morning.

Growing up in an immigrant Asian household, I had a lot to learn about American food, even as a teenager. The first time I ever had whole wheat toast was at Julia’s house. It was also there that I ate my first spinach salad (they eat leafy greens RAW?) and learned about this crazy thing called casseroles.

But the one thing (the one thing!) that amazed me the most was something Julia’s mom called “A Hole in One.” It’s a slice of bread grilled in a pan with a fried egg in the middle—in the middle of the bread!! What?!? I could not get over this. For weeks after I learned about this, I made it several times a week and did not stop eating it until I ran out of eggs. Years later, I discovered that this delectable American breakfast dish goes by many names: “Egg in a Hole,” “Egg in a Basket," "Frog in a Hole," etc... And apparently, this can be done in a waffle, too!! I'll do variations on this for another post.

Now after many years of experimenting, I’ve discovered my favorite way to make this dish: with unsalted butter, one large egg, crusty bread and some salt/black pepper to taste. Occasionally I make this for my roommate. And every time she tells me, “My grandma made this for me when I was a kid!” One time I made it for my boyfriend, who ate it in 30 seconds flat

Tools needed:
1) A non-stick frying pan with a lid
2) A glass cup or cookie cutter—small enough to cut a hole in a slice of bread without piercing the outside crust, but large enough to make a hole that will fit an egg

Ingredients needed:
1) Large slice of crusty bread
2) Unsalted butter, room temp
3) One large egg
4) Salt/pepper

To make fried-egg-in-a-hole-in-a-slice-of-bread, simply cut a hole in your choice of bread and butter both sides with unsalted butter to your desired buttery-ness. Heat up your pan to medium heat, then place buttered bread into the pan; reduce heat to simmer. Add a little bit of butter (1/2 teaspoon or so) to the hole in the bread onto the frying pan; crack and egg inside. Cover the pan with a lid for about 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and flip the bread over (adding butter to the pan, if needed) and fry uncovered for another 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt/pepper to taste. Serve with bacon and mixed green salad for the best breakfast ever!

Recipe recap in pictures...

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Avocado Experience in Michoacan

I had my first taste of avocado honey last month. And it was incredible. If I had been successful at smuggling it across the border from Mexico, you would be hearing about it nonstop. Oh, the things I could have done with that honey. Too bad I get extremely nervous about lying-- and if there's one thing a customs officer can do, it's sniff out an avocado honey smuggler. So there you have it, I'm a failed criminal who has to live without the jar of organic avocado honey that was gifted to me by a lovely Mexican farmer in Michoacan-- the largest Hass-avocado-producing region of the world.

One farm boasted a particularly large tree that had on many occasions yielded up to a metric ton of avocados in a single day. A processing plant we visited processes 100 tons of avocados on an average day. We tasted an avocado that had been ripening on the tree for 18-months. 18 months! Not only did it not spoil on the tree, it actually became more buttery the longer it stayed on the vine. We picked it, sliced it open and ate the flesh right out of the shell. Really one of my favorite ways to eat an avocado.

As part of the tour, we also got to dine at some amazing restaurants in the area. Uruapan is first and foremost known for its avocados, but they are also known for their macadamia nuts. I had a macadamia popsicle (paleta) that was creamy and nutty and succulent. At a local restaurant that was perched over a national park overlooking a waterfall (I know, right?), we dined on everything from avocado shakes to avocado soup with toasted croutons to macadamia-crusted whole trout with avocado salad. I grew up in California, so have eaten avocados for as long as I can remember, but this was taking avocados to the next level. Avocado orchards all around, avocados sold on the street, avocados in the restaurants. This was serious Avocado Land, I tell ya.

Part of the experience of visiting the region was getting a small taste of the local culture. On our drive back from Uruapan to Morelia, where we were staying, we stopped in Patzcuaro-- a small lakeside town of a very old age. We walked around the downtown square, where street vendors sold everything from ice cream to corn on the cob to jewelry. By that point, I was too stuffed to eat anything... except nieve, which is similar to sherbert, only with tons of better flavors, like tamarind and coconut. I made the mistake of describing cajeta as caramel, which upset one of my fellow travelers. So I guess it's not caramel, but it looks and tastes a lot like caramel. And it is DEEELICIOUS. We ate it in the form of frozen dessert and later stuffed inside a fresh churro at Meson Agustinos in Morelia, where I also got a chance to try cactus soup for the first time. Really nice-- the tartness of the cactus balanced by the cream in the soup with some simple seasonings made for a tasty, filling soup. Regional cuisine in Mexico varies (just like in China, India and other large nations), so I was pleasantly surprised I got to try dishes that were brand-new to me-- like avocado-filled fried rice balls, marinated cactus slices and dried beef with onions, beans and cheese stewed inside a stone molcajete. Very drool-worthy.

One last nod to Hotel del la Soledad-- hands down the most romantic, magical hotel I've ever stayed at. Gorgeously maintained architectural details, comfortable rooms and a terrific hotel restaurant. The first night we got there, we had cocktails in the courtyard. I had the platanos margarita, which was banana heaven. And I think I ate an entire bowl of guacamole by myself. What's better than guacamole? Guacamole made with Mexican avocados in the avocado-producing region of Mexico! So incredibly creamy and fresh. We also gorged on lard tamales, sweet tamales and delicate wild-mushroom-stuffed crepes topped with seasoned cream and crumbled cotija, arguably one of my favorite cheeses used for topping. I don't think I was hungry for a second on this entire trip. Next time I come, I am staying for a week. And I'm only going to pack muu-muus and pants with elastic waist bands, because I plan to do a whole lot more eatin'.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NYC Foodie Gift List!

Buying gifts is hard. Especially when your sister is a world-traveling foodie who won't hesitate to tell you the birthday gift you got her sucks ass. The pressure was on to find some awesome gifts for her that captured the essence of NYC foodie hedonism.

Wandering Manhattan aimlessly in the winter cold, I grew increasingly flustered with my options. Too many I heart New York t-shirts and Parda handbags. That night, tiny replicas of the statue of liberty chased me in my dreams.

And yet, there was hope. With the help of my wonderful Yelper buddies, I was able to compile an amazing foodie gift list: New York edition. Here's what we got for non-perishable food items that will be easy to ship to the annoyingly wonderful food snob in your life.

  1. Mudtruck - coffee beans
  2. Dean & Deluca - truffle salt
  3. Jacques Torres - "wicked" hot chocolate
  4. Dual Specialty Store - lentil rice; ask for recipes behind the counter
  5. Chelsea Baskets - Food Network mug or other paraphenalia
  6. Katz’s Deli – whole salami
  7. Russ & Daughters – apron or Cel-Ray celery soda
  8. Porto Rico – more coffee beans
  9. Shopsin’s – cookbook
  10. Ruthy’s – chocolate rugelach or other tasty flavor
  11. Petrossian – caviar or caviar cube
  12. LeVain Bakery – gift bag of cookies
  13. Pearl River Mart – porcelain Greek coffee cups
  14. Kalustyan’s – naga jolokia (“world’s hottest chile”), fennel pollen or other spices
  15. Ess-A-Bagel (Midtown East) – chocolate babka
  16. Kee’s – French macaroons
  17. Mast Brothers – chocolate bar
  18. Berkshire Berries – NYC rooftop honey
  19. McClure’s – spicy garlic pickles
  20. Zabar's – halvah
  21. Faicco's Italian Specialties– homemade soppressata (website not found)
  22. Nunu – sea salt caramels
  23. Alice's Tea Cup -- house blend of tea
  24. Bespoke Chocolates – chocolate hazelnut spread, made especially for you

And while this list is a good place to start, it's hardly comprehensive. Feel free to add your own!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

D's Raw Food Detox


I'm a little piggy. My buddy Kit lovingly calls me a fatty. I think we've all got a little fat kid inside.

I don't diet. And I don't portion control. Which means once in awhile, I start bloating up like beached whale. Whales are cute because they're round. Me? Not so much.

This is where raw food detox comes in. I started doing it about 3 years ago, and it's super simple. It goes like this:

1/2 cup of fiber cereal in the morning with soy milk (recipe below)
all the fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts you like throughout the day
1/2 cup of fiber cereal in the evening with soy milk
8 glasses of water throughout the day

The problem with a lot of cleanses is that (1) if you do a store-bought detox, the pills and fiber drinks can be harsh on your stomach and body, and (2) you're so damn hungry all the time.

One year, I tried a co-worker's 24-hour fast, lasted about 7 hours, felt starved and wanted to eat my own face. Another time I tried the lemonade/cayenne pepper/maple syrup thing. That sure tasted bad, so I dumped it, too. Suffice it to say, I'm not a great candidate for cleansing.

What I like about this detox is that you're not starving yourself. Mostly it's the nuts-- it helps keep you full. Also, this particular detox utilizes all-natural fiber to help aid digestion. And you're not limited as to what fresh fruits and vegetables you can eat (some cleanses forbid bananas or tropical fruit, etc.).

Pretty much, you're eating a vegan raw food diet for a week to cleanse yourself of all the meat, dairy and processed foods that tend to weigh down a person's system.

Cons include headaches for the first day or two and regular (VERY regular) bowel movements.

Bonuses include feeling lighter, having more energy and (for many) glowing skin and hair.

There are tons of raw food recipes online. So you can mix up your diet. Just be careful with the salt. And here are some great raw cookbooks:

Raw Food Made Easy
Ani's Raw Food Kitchen
The Complete Book of Raw Food

And, of course, if you live in a city where there are raw food restaurants, you can still go out to eat! Last week I went to Pure Food in Gramercy and had an oyster mushroom "scallop" that was to die for. You can check out this raw food directory for a complete listing on detox-friendly restaurants.

If you like the cleanse, let me know! And if you have tips on how to improve it, please share!

Happy noshin',
The Traveling Cupcake

RECIPE: FIBER CEREAL (courtesy my buddy alexia)
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup oat bran
1 cup milled flax seed
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup dried fruit (blueberries, cranberries, whatever you like)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

sugar: it's for kids

Yesterday, during a long stretch on the 6 train from Spanish Harlem to Chinatown (I wasn't feeling great, so I thought maybe some noodle soup would straighten me out. It did), I watched a woman feeding her two kids a series of snacks:

Oreo cookies
(then) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
(followed by) fruit roll-ups
(ending with) apple juice

Which, in my mind, translated to:
(then) sugar
(followed by) sugar
(ending with) more sugar

I don't judge this mom. This is how we're taught to feed our kids in the U.S. Pre-packaged food-like products that give our kids "energy." Stuff that our kids "will like."

Growing up, I ate two kinds of food: stuff that was tasty, and stuff that grown-ups put in my bowl and told me to eat. Things like: spicy fermented tofu, salted egg and pickled veggies with rice porridge for breakfast. Chicken curry with fried rice for lunch. Sauteed veggies and braised pork with noodles for dinner. Mangos or lychees for dessert. My diet ran the gamut. I was healthy.

After we moved to the U.S. and started assimilating to the lifestyle here, I was introduced to a different kind of diet. Big huge portions with lots of fat and sugar. A kid's dream come true. When I first tasted a croissant, I thought I'd discovered heaven. Mmm, fat carbs. Love fat carbs. Still do. My skinny jeans always complain.

But then something started happening to me. I started gaining weight. Lots of it. So much my siblings started calling me "The Blob." I didn't understand why. And I would cry in between large bites of Whopper with cheese. Why am I fat? Why are they calling me fat? Why does this Snickers bar taste so good? Gobble, gobble.

It was a difficult, confusing time.

Fast forward and here I am on the 6 train wondering how we can get moms to replace the oreos and fruit roll-ups with, say, bananas and whole wheat crackers.

One concern, obviously, is access to nutritious food. Many communities don't have that. The other is nutrition education. Many parents don't have the information they need to feed their kids a more complete diet. And then there's the underlying cultural desire for gigantic portions (the snacks this mom fed her kids probably had all the calories contained in a meal) and the fear that parents have of making their kids eat something "they don't like." Come on now.

Had I been calling the shots as a kid, I would have just had a giant Pixie stick funneling blue sugar directly into my gullet 24/7. Which, come to think of it, is kind of what we're doing now to our kids. It's hard being a mom. And it's hard to focus on health when an entire culture and industry is built around exactly the opposite. I want to know: how can we make it easier for everyone?

-the traveling cupcake

Thursday, April 9, 2009

quote of the month

"A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished, two characteristics seldom found in the same body in the long natural history of our species."

-Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

food incarnations

Few people know my personal food rule. I eat an 80/20 diet. 80% veggie. 20% omni. I treat meat as a side dish.

Back in SF, it used to be 80% raw food and 20% cooked food. But then I got way too involved in the raw food scene and started feeling cultish and had to stop hanging out at Cafe Gratitude all the time. I was *this* close to drinking the raw Kool-Aid.

Before that I didn't eat beef for religious reasons (don't tell my mom I sneak galbi). And then before that I didn't eat four-legged animals. The latter was because at a banquet one year an uncle chased me around with the whole tongue of a roasted piglet. Charming guy.

As a kid, however, I ate everything the grown-ups would put in front of me. There were 14 kids in my family. I was the youngest one. I either ate what there was or I didn't eat at all. It's a wonder how selective I am about my food as an adult and how many different food rules I've imposed on myself over the years.

I wonder a lot about that privilege-- the luxury of choosing what I will and won't eat. 854 million people worldwide are malnourished, and I'm pushing a chicken breast off my plate because it's overcooked. Something doesn't seem right about that. Though I'm reminded of a story about Thomas Keller that I will remember forever.

When Chef Keller first opened The French Laundry, he personally slaughtered a dozen live rabbits. They screamed. One rabbit broke its leg trying to get away.

The chef says he now treats every piece of meat that passes through his kitchen with the deepest respect because he understands the extraordinary sacrifice of animals.

One thing is true. We all want to live. But we don't all get to live.

Perhaps that's why we must respect our food. When we do, we honor where our food comes from. And we honor the incredible privilege it is to eat when others cannot. Maybe that's why slow food values appeal to me. It's something to strive for. It's a good way to give back through eating (to the earth, to those who labor, to those in our communities, etc.), rather than just taking from others through our food.

So next time you see me noshing on a box of 6-piece Chicken Mcnuggets, you are welcome to bitch-slap me a little. I never said I was perfect. Though I blame it entirely on that sweet and sour sauce. I can't prove there's crack in there. But I do allege.

-the traveling cupcake