Were you a school lunch or a packed lunch kid? I was mostly a lunch-buyer growing up — I had my fair share of Lunchables on field trips and PB&Js in those fold-top plastic Ziplocs-without-Ziplocs, but my school lunch memories are dominated by plastic trays sliding along metal rungs, boat-shaped French bread pizzas, clammy and not quite melted in the center; paper cartons of chocolate milk and foil-capped orange sherbet; hard-shell tacos that I’d gleefully crush into a makeshift taco salad.
I’ve written a lot about how much I love the food in Hong Kong. I’ll probably write more even after this. I’m a food-oriented person to begin with (I know, shocker) and the places I’ve been and the memories I have are, a lot of times, defined by the things I ate and savored and enjoyed in any one place at any one time. But all that said, Hong Kong might still be the greatest food city I’ve ever been to.
The first real meal I had in Hong Kong was courtesy of my cousin, who is lucky enough to call HK home and to whom I owe about 85% of my HK food journey. He took me to a traditional Cantonese restaurant, the sort with the ubiquitous Lazy Susan crowded with small plates and bamboo baskets, and the first dish he ordered was, fittingly, a plate of the most perfect char siu, lacquered ruby red and glistening, sliced into pieces with the fat and lean distributed just so. I’m pretty sure from that first bite (or, that first plate, since I think I single-handedly ate all of it) I didn’t have a bad meal for the entire four months I was there. Chewy, crumbly pineapple cakes from Kee Wah, nibbled in their plastic jackets on an open-air walkway from Central to Sheung Wan; fish ball skewers in electric yellow curry on a narrow street in Causeway Bay; “quicksand” lau sa bao filled with molten egg custard at a dim sum joint that opened at 3 AM for the late night crowd. Creamy yuan yang and silky-soft scrambled eggs on toast at Australia Dairy Company. A mountain of ground pork with a single salted duck yolk perched exactly on top, the most umami-filled dish I’ve ever had, ordered for me in fluid Cantonese by a friend and shared under fluorescent lighting in a hole-in-the-wall on a balmy fall night. I used to take the bus to a random neighborhood and just wander, window-shopping food things, until I found something I wanted to eat, and from the KFC egg tarts to the best, penthouse restaurant hairy crab, it was all some of the best food I’ve ever had.
Hi friends! How was your weekend? We spent a fun one down in North Carolina at the wedding of one of Bowl #2’s college friends. This might just be me and the fact that I haven’t gone to that many yet, but I feel like I love weddings more and more with every one I go to, even when I’m a plus-one and I’ve never met the bride and groom. (But also there’s a 20% chance you’ll find me crying in my office to YouTube highlight reels of strangers’ weddings on any given afternoon. Just so you know what kind of constitution you’re dealing with.)
So I’m pretty sure I never really knew what horchata was for the longest time. It was just a drink that sounded vaguely delicious and that I suspected I was missing out on until I got distracted five seconds later. And then I came across these these dreamy cinnamon horchata popsicles last summer, I finally sat down and read Jonathan’s beguiling words about it — and it suddenly became one of those things that sounded so crazy delicious and ambrosial that I wondered what I was doing with my life that I hadn’t had it yet. If you’re vague on it like I was, it turns out horchata is a sweet, creamy drink made from (among other variations, depending on where it’s from) rice, almonds, and cinnamon, served chilled and over ice. The soaked rice and almonds produce a richly milky, opaque sip of heaven that’s still completely dairy-free, and with a touch of heat from the cinnamon, it’s kind of the only thing I want to drink all summer long.
Spring is coming! It’s true, we did just spend the majority of last week’s commutes skating through pools of slush, and there are still attractively sooty mounds of snow piled in the purgatory between the cars and the sidewalk. But they’re melting so fast. We’ve been waking up to a cacophony of long-lost birds outside our window, I’ve (tentatively) traded in my Michelin-man puffer for a wool coat for the first time in 2015. I’ve graduated from leggings to tights under my work pants. It’s supposed to be a high of sixty today?! I almost didn’t type it because I feel like I might jinx it. Spring is tiptoeing our way, and — even though I know it’ll probably desert us at least a few more times this year — I’m so excited.
After such a long and lingering winter this year, it feels like this late, coy spring is hurtling into summer faster than I can keep up with. One moment it was snowing in April, a perpetual winter, a movie on pause, and the next it was everything at once — an 80-degree Memorial Day, violently green foliage everywhere we look, another year’s worth of friends getting illustrious degrees, my brother finishing his freshman year and coming to visit New York for the first time. A wedding venue booked (!), a date set, a trip to Vegas to celebrate some amazing friends. Our first New York lease on the cusp of expiring, an apartment move next weekend.
With the whirlwind of things that have been happening lately, this past long weekend could not have been more welcome. There were things to do, but spread out over three days instead of two, it gave us the chance to take a couple much-needed deep breaths, pump the brakes a little, and relax. We took a break from packing to watch Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, which appealed to every sentimental whim of my English major heart; we enjoyed our favorite things about this creaky “has character” apartment in our last weekend before the move, like the green-tinged, dappled sunlight that filters lazily through our vine-covered balcony in the early afternoons. (And the in-apartment washer-dryer. We’ll miss you, world’s oldest and smallest washer and dryer. You may have been highly inefficient, you may have threatened to explode, but you were in our apartment.)
Sometimes it tickles me to realize what a sliver of things show up in this little blog life of mine. For instance, an abbreviated list of the wide expanse of Things that Happen and are Not Pictured in my Non-Blog Life:
- Cleaning up artful mess
- Cleaning up artless mess
- Fits of food rage (RIP mini cakes)
- More dishes
- Realizing a long time later that I forgot to clean up artful mess because I was too excited about eating
- Sometimes work
- Spilling flour
- Spilling everything else
- Lots and lots of delivery pizza*
*By delivery, I really only mean Papa John’s. I know, I know, in New York. A New York slice is a thing much appreciated. But for elastic-waistband-pigging-out, there’s no love like our Papa J’s love, y’all. To the point where we’ve adapted their weekly specials into our everyday vocabulary (“Early Week Mania” Monday through Wednesday guys, just sayin’).
So last week, I rhapsodized about my newest-found obsession, brioche. (And not just that, but no-knead brioche!) I’ve been wondering why it took me so long to discover this gem of a bread. I don’t really know, but my guess is — maybe because most of the photos I’d seen before were of sliced brioche, or maybe because the ones I’d tried hadn’t been fresh, I thought of it as a very different texture than it really is. For some reason, I imagined it as unappealingly rigid, dry, maybe a little crumbly. (Which it can be, but only if it’s tired and stale. In which case it’s time to make French toast!)
So woefully misled. Thankfully, I now know the shiny, buttery truth — the truth that is soft, wispy cotton-candy tufts of melt-in-your-mouth bread, the kind of bread that makes you hook your index finger rudely into its belly and yank its cloud-like innards from inside its well-shined golden-brown walls. And add garlic butter, herbs, and melty cheese into that belly? Oh man. Just so good. Goodbye, bread etiquette, hello, hollow brioche shells.
Here’s part two of my Brioche Kick — instead of twisting it up with red bean, I made this one savory, with a dose of smoked gouda, some chopped chives, more butter and a touch of garlic. (If I were hip and with it, I would have hunted down some ramps for this baby, but alas.) Bowl #2 thought it was way better than the red bean, and I kind of had to agree. While that one was fun and a bit off the beaten path, this was just spectacular — full of flavor and colorfully rich, yet not overwhelming. The kind of bread that is its own meal. (And did I mention that this recipe is, again, no-knead?) Enjoy!
P.S. Some news! Somehow I’m up on Food & Wine’s Blogger Spotlight this week, talking about mini things and Korean food. (No mini Korean foods, though.) I’m still pinching myself and/or trying not to pee my pants (is this real life?) but you can feel free to ignore me and go read my bashful interview here. Eeee.
Can I just say, first, before anything else? Guys. This weather. I know it’s supposed to get chilly again this week, but this Sunday’s weather was in-cred-ible. I’m unabashedly one of those people whose moods are starkly affected by the weather outside, and this weekend was just sublime. It finally feels like spring! And just in time for Easter.
It’s that time of year, it feels like, when your body starts craving things that refresh and nourish. Bright and sunny citrus, fresh crunchy vegetables with vitamins and nutrients. Of course, where other lovely folks take those cues by going raw, making stunningly vibrant fresh-pressed juices, or whipping up drool-worthy tahini berry smoothie bowls … I make cake.
Somehow I’m not sensing an abundance of surprise here. READ MORE