Monday, September 5, 2016

Hot hot hot!

Speaking of SE Asia, I just returned from a trip to Taipei, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur! Let me tell you, it was HOT! Pretty accurate for this time of the year there. I actually havent been to Asia during the summer in countless years. It was always more convenient to go during the holidays due to work and family plans. This time around, my family was there and seemed like a great opportunity to travel with my sister.

Since I arrived in TPE later than everyone else, they had already been well accustomed to jetlag and sourced out all the new places we should check out. I won't go into details of every single place we went but one that is worthy of mentoning is Red Lantern, at Silks Place in  (Yilan - outside of Taipei). They're most known for the Cherry Valley Duck, 5 ways. If you love duck, especially peking duck, this place is a must have!

One of their top dishes is known is the duck skin sushi. It was the most amazing duck skin I've ever had. It was crispy to the right amount without being overly dry, the duck fat oozed as you took a bite. I savored every single chew! I even stole a bite from my nephew... needless to say he was not so happy!  (and still holds a grudge to this day and continuously brings it up - mind you, he's 6). The set meal also included shrimp, some starters, duck egg/spring rolls, duck soup with cabbage, 3-cup duck bones, and sweet dessert (red bean) soup. You can also order additional dishes as well. Photos below to show how amazing it was!


After a few days in Taiwan, my sister and I ventured out to Singapore and Malaysia. There was a lot of walking in both places, many times we walked so much and didnt ancipate it that we just got super hangry! Though we were determined to find the food we were looking for.

Some must eats in Singapore: Hainanese Chicken, Pepper Crab/Chili Crab, Assorted food from Tiong Baru Market.

We didnt actually get to eat the famous Tian Tian Hainese Chicken but we had an amazing Hainanese Chicken which is actually pretty well known as well. We went to Wee Nam Kee. You can pretty much customize your order (dark meat or white or mix). The chicken was tender, white meat wasn't dry and the sauces-- even if you're not a fan of spicy, you have to try the sauces. The ginger in the sauces, the umami of the flavors, cant beat it.

We love small hole in the wall places so we were having a hard time finding "No Signboard Seafood" that was not touristy or a big banquet like restaurant. We tried a few places and gave up on No Signboard. Ended up talking a walk through chintown - I know, touristy however came to a crab place in the middle of the square called Chinatown Crab Master. It wasnt over priced like the other places along the Quay and the lady was super nice. We really wanted to get multiple crabs but with just two people, it wanst feasible. We settled on Chili crab and fried man tou (fried buns). We brought it back to the hotel to chow down and it was sooooo amazing. The black pepper crab looked amazing too (we snuck a photo of someone elses pepper crab!) The aromas of the saltiness crab plus the freshness of the meat is an undescribable combination. In additon to that, you've got the chili sauce that you just want to dump over a nice bowl of hot rice! The buns were fried to golden perfecton so that instead of rice worked nicely.

Another fun place we checked out was satay street (Lau Pa Sat) right outside of Telok Ayer Market. We went later in the night for a snack and there are so many different satay stands! We really wanted to get something from every stand as a comparison. We ended up trying only two stands. Number 6 and 8. #6 was definitely the winner. The satay was grilled just right, the meat was still dripping with juciness and the peanut sauce was also spot on. We tried grilled skate wing at #8 but it wasnt what we eexpected, way over cooked and dry - that was a no go for us. I do hear skate wing is a must try though, maybe just not at #8.

Tiong Bahru market is a simliar to a wet market where they on the first floor is all produce and second floor is all food stands. Few thigns to know is the Tsui Kweh (steamed rice patties), the tofu pudding (BEST soy milk and dou hua - tofu pudding I've had in my life!)

After a few days in Singapore, we were off to KL! We were actually very much on the fence about KL during the planning phase. We LOVE LOVE LOVE Thailand and BKK but we've been there so many times that we wanted something new. So we decided to buck up and letter our inner curiosity take us for a whirlwind of a trip. I have to say though, it turned out more exciting and better than expected. First of, Malaysia/KL is a melting pot of so many different cultures. It really reminds me of the US in the sense that you've got people of Indian, Chinese, etc descent, however, they only acknowledget themselves as Malay no matter how many generations they've been there. It's pretty phenomonal. The Malays are extremely welcoming and it made us feel super comfortable.

Our first stop was W.A.W Restaurant - they're known for their bbq chicken wings. It was definitely good but I wouldnt say it blew my socks off. Definitely fresh and alot of manual labor in getting the wings to the perfect bbq taste. Maybe it was the weather but we had a bottle of Carlsberg beer and it was super refereshing and tasted so crisp!Probably also becuase it pairs well with the bbq! Their Hokkien noodles, which seems basic but was actually very tasty and well cooked. They were not stuck together and missing sauce, it was covered evently and consistency was just right.

Along Jalan Alor, we found a BBQ bacon spot. Imagine beef jerky but using bacon strips. We bought 200g of this and lasted us the entire time we were there plus some! Tasted almost like maple coated bacon but even better with a tinge of soy. It really had that sweet/savory umami flavor to it. Def must have.

Another must have is Ba-Kuh-Teh. I believe it is a national dish of Malaysia/Singapore and widely known. It is a pork rib soup cooked with some special spices. It's got some innards/intestines, veggies, mushrooms and you usually eat it over rice. One of our guides had taken us to a spot off the beaten path and it was phenomenal. It was quite herbally but that is just how its supposed to be. You can also buy Ba-Kuh-Teh packets to go and can make your own at home.

I know this is getting quite long but the last "food" thing I will mention is that since Malay is made up of such a large Indian population, one of my KL friends suggested that we MUST have banana leaf while in KL. Boy, was he right. It was the easily one of the top 3 meals we had on our trip. Keep in mind anyone going into this should be fairly open minded of a new culture and new way of doing things. We went to Sri Nirwana Maju Bangsar (Nirvana Restaurant in Bangsar). Bangsar is a pretty hip, young, up and coming area with lots of small local places. What is banana leaf? Banana leaf is a type of Indian cuisine where the curry, side dishes, are all served on a banana leaf! You would typically use your hands to eat what is served on the leaf and the tradition is that when you are done, you fold the banana leaf inwards to show your appreciation and show that you enjoyed the food.  (i ended up folding the wrong way but they were appreciative of the effort, haha!)

We ordered fried squid, mutton curry, and chicken tikka masala. Sides that were included were yogurt sauce, fried gourd (I'm not a fan of bitter melon but this was exceptional), and onions amongst a few other items. Not sure what it was but the combination of all the items just worked. It was definitely spicy on some dishes but it was really really phenomenal. Looking around, you can see how intertwined all the different cultures was and it was an enlightening sight. I will definitely be back for this!

One of our last spots before leaving was Yut Kee, they're a famous breakfast spot known for old school chinese breakfast. They're known for their chicken chop and Roti babi. Again, one of our top meals in Malay! Yut Kee has been around for generations and was passed down. It is a mom and pop shop and even though it has been pased down from generation to generation, the friendliness and hospitality of a small shop still stands. They also sell kaya roll cake and freshmade kaya jam!

Here are some photos to show our trip from KL!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Blast the AC!

If I didnt know better this summer, I would have thought we were in the south or SE Asia! The heat, humidity, and random thunderstorms in the last few weeks have been very un-NY like. July has always been hot and humid but we've never experienced flash thunderstorms as often as we have this year.

So, I thought... What is better than having Taiwanese style piping hot beef noodle soup (紅燒牛肉麵) in the middle of this disgusting heat? But at least I'll have the AC on, right?

I used to slave over the stove for HOURS on end trying to braise the perfect soup base and cook the meats down to the perfect texture. This time, the Instant Pot saved me again!

Growing up, Mom would seldom make this because it would take so long but we craved for it all the time. Back in Taiwan, Ah-Ma (my maternal grandmother) actually sold beef noodle soup out of the small porch of the house that I remember visiting when I was a kid. By the time I was born, she was no longer selling it but I would hear so many stories. On top of that, my dad even got involved with the business when him and Mom were courting/dating/or even beginning of their marriage. Dad was definitely a keeper ;)

So here is my authentic version of Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup!


2 lbs Beef (this can be shank, beef stew, oxtail, beef tendon, tripe, etc)
*Beef shank is what is traditionally used as that is the cut that gives the noodle soup the rice collagen-filled soup base. This time around, I used Oxtail and Beef Tendon
2 small/med carrots - cut up in one inch pieces
1 small/med Onion - halved
3 Scallions - cut in halves
2 Tomato - cut in quarters
3-4 Garlic - peeled and smashed
1 Marinade packet
1/2 cup Soy sauce 
1/3 Chinese cooking wine
1 stick Rock/Brown sugar
1 TBS oil 


Chopped cilantro
Sauteed sour cabbage
- 1 bag pickled mustard green (thai branded)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- sugar to taste
- 1 TBS Oil

Noodles: I used Japanese Udon Noodles which is what I had in the pantry but hand pulled noodles or any other types of Chinese noodles would work too

(tips on some of the ingredients)

Marinating packet option 1
Marinating Packet Option 2

Brown/Rock Sugar 

First, I put on a pot of boiling water so I can blanch my meat. This will clean the meat and rid it of any dirty blood and things. I prefer a clearer broth so this step helps me in getting there. 

The pot will start to boil and there is a pinkish/brownish foam that will be created from the boil. I strain the meat and rinse it real quick with some clean water and leave it to the side. 

Instant pot is amazing in that you can do everything in one pot! Add the oil, then sautee the scallion, onion and garlic (all the fragrant ingredients) until brown.

I then added tomato and carrots, and the beef or choice of meat. 

Add soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar (I prefer this on the sweeter side so this can be adjusted to taste). Add water until it just covers the top of the all the ingredients. 

Finally, add in the marinade packet. 

Close the lid to the pressure cooker, make sure the vent is closed.

Press the manual function and adjust the timer to 75 minutes. I thought 75 minutes was a bit long so maybe 65-70 minutes would be slightly better. 

Final Product!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Black Friday... in JULY?

So most of you, if not all of you know that a few weeks ago Amazon had their Prime Day. Some walked away with some pretty good deals. One of the biggest sellers was the Instant Pot. It is a 7 in 1 multi function cooker. You can purchase on Amazon.

Truth be told, I was definitely a bit hesitant. Reason being that I wasn't sure that I would really make good use of all 7 functions and I thought that I'd just have a one week phase with it and then stop using it. Plus my kitchen doesn't have a lot of room so it was just another appliance that I could do with out. In my research phase, I read up on a bunch of blogs and reviews - everyone had positive things to say and people seem to use this appliance regularly! So I decided to purchase the pot! It was supposed to arrive with free two day shipping but ended up getting it the next day which was a nice surprise.

Recently, I had been craving a simple chicken soup and figured I can use the pressure cooker function to cook it in a just a short period of time. It was a weeknight and I didnt have a lot of time to make a full on chicken stock/broth. I was able to make the soup in 60 minutes. Just enough time for me to work out at the gym!

The result? Better than I could have imagined!

In addition, I had so much stock left over, I thought, why not make some chicken congee in the SAME POT! So that's what I did. All I had to do was add rice, turn the pressure cooker back on and by the time I had gotten ready for bed, congee was the perfect consistency and delicious.

Below is the recipe and some photos - enjoy!

Soup: (can use pork ribs, carrots, daikon, etc)

2 corn, broken into thirds
2 organic chicken thighs - can use any part of the chicken as you wish
few slices of ginger
4-5 dried shiitake mushroom

1. soak mushroom in water - 20 minutes should be fine
2. fill up the instant pot with water to about the 6 mark
3. once mushrooms are soaked and roughtly sliced, pour the mushroom water in the pot
4. Add in all ingredients
5. Press the "soup" setting, it should default to high pressure (make sure the valve is sealed)
6. Set time for 45 min
7. Salt/season to taste

Soup base/water/liquid of preference
Whatever else you want

1. Liquid to rice ratio is 7:1
2. Add in any other ingredients
3. Press the "Porridge" setting, it should default to high pressure (make sure the valve is sealed)
4. Set time for 60 minutes
5. Salt/Season to taste - add any toppings (scallions, thousand year old egg, cilantro, etc)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It's Been a While!

Wow, I can't believe it has really been 3+ years since I've last posted. Time certainly flies and life definitely happens.

Since 2013, I've travelled quite a bit as well as taken on some challenges both in my personal life and career.

To me, life is about the journey, and not about the end goal. The experiences and people we encounter in our lives help shape who we become. Those that have come and gone in our lives, I believe have a place and a purpose in our journeys. No matter the outcome of those relationships, always try to see the silver lining. You'll be much happier when you accept those things and see positivity stem from them. Of course, in the case that there are already positive outcomes, don't forget to show appreciation and thank those that have supported you.

Those that have followed me for some time have seen some of the transformations in both my writing and my life. For a while, I've taken on some interest in street fairs, events, "fun" things to do around NYC. It really allowed me to appreciate NYC as a whole and I enjoyed every part of sharing that with my friends and family.

So where am I going with this? Since I've [really] settled in NYC, I've had the opportunity to develop my second loves - CULTURE AND CUISINE!

In NYC, you can practically find anything and everything! If you're talking about quality, that might be a whole other ball game but generally speaking, NYC is the epitome of what we consider a culture mash up.

Anyone who follows my IG (@crewgrl19), Facebook, Snapchat (ID: crewgrl19) know that my life is consumed with trying new things, and finding the best food out there (whether it's homemade or found elsewhere).

I'll be [hopefully] posting more consistently on my adventures of Pigs and Chicks (IG: @pigsandchicks or Pigs and Chicks FB Page), cooking, and dining out experiences.

Lots of folks have asked for recipes of food I've put up on social media - I've decided to post them here so everyone can access. Would love to see the results if you decide to test out one of Luluish's receipes!

Cheers to more yummy times!