Janice’s (R)oast Beef #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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The January after I spent Christmas 2008 with my sister in Houston, I went further north to Vancouver to visit old friends made during my days at York University. At the time, I hadn’t seen them since we’d left one another in Toronto in 2002.

My first few days in Vancouver, I stayed with Janice and her family, whose house was close to downtown Vancouver. They had a little attic space in their house which doubled as the guest room. It was one of the cosiest spaces I’d slept in though I recall the wooden stairs going up and down creaked a little too loudly.

During one of the evenings, we stayed in and Janice and her mum (who came over to meet me) made dinner. Her mum had come over with groceries which included a significant cut of beef tenderloin for roasting.

“Is there anything I can help with?” I asked, feeling uncomfortable just standing around.

“Sure, you can help slice the carrots for the vegetables which will go with the roast beef,” Janice suggested.

And so, I began to peel and cut carrots, happy to have an active part in coming up with dinner that day, instead of just eating it. It’s always strange to insert oneself into a family’s every day life, that’s what it felt like for me that day, but Janice’s easygoing ways made me feel at ease.

The roast beef I had at Janice’s house was exactly like this. So yum.

After several hours of prep, and waiting for the beef to roast, it was finally time for dinner. Janice pointed me towards my seat at the table, a seat that had my back to their yard, while the rest of her family – her husband, her mother, Janice and their son – took their regular seats. Janice’s husband carved the roast, which was a near perfect medium rare. We had our dinner with a delicious bottle of red wine, and I was grilled by Janice’s husband about who discovered Malaysia. It was a strange, and memorable evening.

Are you a fan of good roast beef like me?

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50-Word Story.5 #flashfiction

One of my writing goals for this year is to submit a piece of flash fiction monthly to the 50-Word Stories site. My January piece was published on the site. My submissions in February and March were not accepted, but I’ll share them here.

February: I try to write within a specific theme for the pieces I submit to 50-Word Stories mainly because it focuses me. Since, February was the month of love, my submission reflected that –

Sole Mates

“What do you think?” She fidgeted with her new bob cut. He’d never seen her with hair this short before. 

“Hmmm?” Her husband’s fingers continued swiping across his tablet.

“My hair, dear.”

He glanced up, then back at his device. “Oh,” he replied. “I’ve always liked your hair like that.”

March: I was reading many books about the end of the world in March and it came out in my writing when it was time to submit to the site –

If Not Now, Then When?

The asteroid raced towards Earth, determined in its destination, promising extinction. Chaos reigned globally. Humanity’s mood: despair.

Too impoverished for a seat on the numerous ships escaping this doomed planet, I spent my final days doing the one thing I never thought I’d do – I dug my own grave.

April: This month’s submission came from a combination of a writing prompt I found in the July/ August 2015 Writer’s Digest magazine which began with “I ate it – all of it. It was terrible, ” and an article about asteroids in the Australian Science Illustrated (Issue #65). I was poised for another rejection, but was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Tim that it would be published on the site.

Maybe the secret is that the title of both pieces start with the letter ‘R’? 🙂

No (Q)uail Eggs with My Cold Soba Please #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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One of my favourite dishes to order when I’m at a Japanese restaurant is cold buckwheat noodles or cold soba. I like that it’s an interactive dish, requiring the diner to prepare the dipping sauce to their own taste, after which the cold noodles are dunked into.

Sometimes, the dish is served with a raw quail egg which is intended to be added to the dipping sauce. I tried doing that once, dipped my cold noodles into the cold sauce which had the raw egg, sliced spring onions and grated white radish in it and tasted it. And almost puked. All I could taste was the raw egg. And every time I licked my lips, more raw egg. So much ugh.

Since that one failed culinary experiment, every time there was a quail egg served with my cold soba, I’d pass the raw egg to one of my siblings to add to their cold soba. They seemed to think nothing of the egg-y taste in their dipping sauce. Ugh. Recently though, since my siblings aren’t around when I indulge in this favourite dish of mine, I’d just glare at that raw quail egg wishing it wasn’t there.

Have you ever eaten (or slurped) a raw egg? Did you like it? (Ugh)

Rafaella’s Spaghetti alla (P)uttanesca #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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When I lived in Toronto with Rafaella, she introduced me to her homemade limoncello.  As I gingerly sipped the lemon liqueur from the tiny glass she served me, I asked her if it was a family recipe.  No, she said, the nuns in convent, they teach me to make the limoncello. And now, I teach you, yes?

Yes, I replied, but then that day I learned to make her Spaghetti alla Puttanesca instead and never got the limoncello recipe that the nuns taught Rafaella.

The only spaghetti alla puttanesca recipe I’ll ever need

We were in her kitchen which were up the steps from the ground floor I sublet from her. She had her pots on the stove and had started to mince garlic. I had my recipe book in hand and scribbled as she explained to me what she was adding to the pot and how long something had to simmer. With her thick Italian accent, sometimes I had to ask her to repeat what she’d said more than once.

After scribbling furiously for maybe 10 minutes, trying to keep up with this diminutive nonna, Rafaella’s spaghetti alla puttanesca was done, and she was dishing it into two small bowls.

I’d been bombarded by the smells from her cooking the entire time I was taking notes and couldn’t wait to dig in. We sat at her kitchen table and I slurped the pasta down. She asked me if I would be able to make the dish next time on my own, I looked at my notes and then at her, and told her that every time I did, I would remember this evening with her.

Do you have a favourite pasta dish?

French (O)nion Soup #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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It’s Christmas Eve and I’m making French Onion Soup.

I spend nearly two hours peeling and slicing hundreds (okay, more like 10) of Bombay onions the size of my cat’s head, and he’s a big cat, nearly 10 kilogrammes. Onion-induced tears stream down my face as I slice. Oh joy to the world.

This may look like too much onions, but for French onion soup, there’s no such thing as too much onions, as I discovered

The last time I made this particular French onion soup, this exact recipe from the original domestic goddess herself, Martha Stewart, it was 2009 and I was in Houston spending Christmas with my sister and her family.

Well, not quite `spending’ Christmas with them as I was alone on Christmas day while they were in Las Vegas. They were returning the evening of Boxing Day and I had spent the morning of the 26th, driving gingerly to Krogers (driving on the other side of the car on the other side of the street was nerve-wrecking) to get all the ingredients. After my successful trip to the grocery store, I spent the rest of the day in the kitchen preparing all the yummy food I’d seen Martha Stewart do the night before. It was one of the most peaceful Christmases I’ve had in a long while.

Back in the present, I wait for the onions to caramelise and release its sweet fragrance before I add the liquids – dry sherry and heaps of store-bought beef stock.

I remember when my sister, her husband, their two kids and my sister’s mother-in-law finally sat down to a belated Christmas dinner, the first dish they tried was the onion soup that had simmered for almost three hours. Like Martha, I’d added shavings of Gruyere and placed the individual bowls of soup under the broiler to allow the cheese to heat and bubble, encasing the soup in delicious cheesy goodness. Within minutes, everyone’s bowl was scrapped clean.

As I whisk my soup gently, recalling the satisfied and peaceful demeanour which settled on the faces of my relatives and pseudo-relatives, I resolve to make French onion soup a Christmas family tradition.

I place the bowl on the table next to the roast turkey and wonder how my sister and her family is doing.

Are you a soup person? What’s your favourite soup to have?

(N)oodles in Phnom Penh #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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It was the first day of my first visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and I was curious to find out what Khmer cuisine was like. So, that first evening, a few of us decided to seize the moment and try the local street food. We’d seen a stall doing brisk business across the street from our hotel, so that was our destination. First, we had to survive crossing the street.

Let me tell you, crossing the street in Phnom Penh required a considerable amount of skill.  We saw the locals saunter casually across the street, while cars and motorcycles zipped and swerved around them, without slowing down.

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Finally, we did it. We got to the other side, after much hand pulling, hand holding, squealing and sprinting. It took us probably 10 minutes, and once we even almost gave up.

To be honest, the street stall, which was already quite full with perhaps only one or two tables left unoccupied, looked more appealing from across the street. There were crumpled tissue papers littering the ground at every table, and geckos (lots of them!) clinging to the wall where some tables leaned against. Ugh.

The guy manning the stall, approached us, probably recognising us as tourists, and asked us in his broken English, “We famous for beef noodles!  You want?”

We were quite hungry (crumpled tissues and geckos be damned) so unanimously we said, “Yes, we want.”

So, we sat at a corner table which had the crumpled tissues beneath it and ordered.  He came by and asked again, “You want noodles with bowl?”  “Err…,” I said, “ok, noodles with bowl.” I thought he meant if we wanted a soupy noodle, which would come in a bowl.  I was proven wrong later for it was fried noodles and `the bowl’ was a bowl of soup.  Oh well.

Another thing I remember about that meal was that the wall next to our table had perhaps more than 10 geckos staring back at us. I was silently praying that none of those geckos fall into our meal or drinks or self. I didn’t want additional protein other than the one served by the street stall.

I wish I could say that the beef noodle was delicious but it was just mediocre. I was expecting lots of spice and heat since the country shared a border with Thailand, however, the food did not singe my tongue in the slightest.

We left dissatisfied culinary-wise but happy because the dinner conversation was good. Then, we realised that we had to cross that darn street again to get back to our hotel.

(M)artinis with Annie #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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Annie was in my course at university and we had a few classes together. My first impression of her was “Yikes, she’s so super-enthusiastic!” I remember when we were first introduced, she couldn’t help but extend her hand in friendship and suggested we get lunch on campus.

Among the many friends I made in Toronto (most lasting until now more than 10 years later), she was the person I thought of as my “step-out-of-my-comfort-zone-with” friend. 

You can never go wrong with a lychee martini

Annie said she’d heard of a cool martini bar in downtown Toronto and asked me if I wanted to check it out. At the time, I’d never had a martini ever, so the idea of having a martini at an actual martini bar, in a foreign country, sounded appealing. “Yes, let’s go!” I said to her.

The bar was dark (as bars often are) with artfully placed candles in various locations, designed to make one look mysterious when bathed in the yellow glow. Most of the tables were occupied but we managed to find one located next to the bar. The first martini I tried was a lychee martini, which the waitress pronounced as “lee-chee” and when I was done with that, I had the chocolate martini, which frankly was too much chocolate, not enough martini.

I also remember in between my martinis, Annie decided that she saw someone cute and worth speaking to at the bar, and she immediately headed over and chatted him up. They exchanged numbers, of course, that was Annie.

Now, whenever I order a martini, I remember that blustery night in Toronto when Annie dragged convinced me to enjoy a few glasses of martinis with her.

(L)emon Drops, I Don’t Heart You #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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My sister’s hen’s night (or bachelorette’s party, depending on which part of the world you’re from) was a pretty memorable night. But, whenever something or someone reminds me of that night, I scrunch up my face and go “Ugh!” This is because that night, I was introduced to one of the most malevolent cocktails ever – lemon drops. Ugh!

Full disclosure: I was forced instructed tasked to organise my sister’s hen’s party since I was the MOH, which for those not in the know, stands for Maid of Honour. The entire day before, I was running around buying balloons, getting pink feather boas, calling her friends to make sure they would be at the bar at the agreed upon time, etc… By the time, my sister and I ended up at the bar to start the night, well, I was running on empty because I’d only had a bowl of instant ramen sometime throughout the day.

That innocuous-looking yellow drink in the front is the aforementioned evil lemon drops.

When the tray of lemon drops first arrived which were part of the hen’s night drinks package, they looked so inviting – cute, sparkling yellow, and they tasted sweet, which should have served as a warning since sweet cocktails are always deceptively boozy.

One of my sister’s friends, distinctly remembered that I’d said “Oooo…these are sweet like candy!” and then downed the shot, immediately picking up another one. That was one of the last things I remembered from that night.

The next morning (or afternoon), my world was spinning. I had the worse hangover I’ve ever had before and since. AND, I still had to go in to work since I only took the morning off. I barely remembered getting to work, and also what happened at work. That entire day was a black hole.

It’s been 6 years since that eventful night, I haven’t had lemon drops since and I’ve never been happier. Lemon drops, ugh!

Do you have a drink you think of as your nemesis? A drink that you had too much of and never want to have again?

PS: I wrote about my sister’s hen’s night for the April A to Z Challenge in 2013. You can read it here 🙂

(K)inilaw, wow #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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My travels to the Philippines has introduced me to a variety of foods that I was delighted to have had the opportunity to try at least once in my lifetime – balut, and others that I’d try again if I ever get the chance – kinilaw.

Kinilaw (kee-nee-lahw), is raw, cubed fish in a vinegar-based dressing, usually eaten as an appetizer (though I could eat it any time of the day, most every day, I think)

My journey to Davao City encompassed one taxi ride from my house to the airport, two separate plane rides, a shuttle bus ride in-between those plane rides and finally, a van ride from the airport to the hotel. All within the span of 12 hours. I was exhausted, thought this wasn’t a good start to the trip and already couldn’t wait to get home.

What the clients decided to serve for lunch the next day made the trip a whole lot brighter. They had catered lunch which was served buffet-style at the back of the training room. As I queued up for my turn, I spotted what looked like chunky meat/ fish with chilies in the chafing dish ahead. When I stood in front of it, I asked my Filipino colleague what it was and she said to me “It’s a local favourite – kinilaw na tuna. It’s raw, you know, something like ceviche.”

If you know me, you’d know that I like ceviche a whole lot, as well as other raw preparations of food like steak tartare, Sarawakian umai and beef carpaccio.

I had my first bite of kinilaw and I was in heaven. I ignored the other dishes and just kept refilling my plate with the raw tuna salad. The trip was definitely looking up. For the next few days, I had kinilaw whenever and wherever I could because who knew when I’d ever have the chance to try this yummy dish again. In total, I probably had kinilaw 3 or 4 more times. Another thing I discovered that trip – kinilaw goes great with beer, particularly San Miguel.

I almost finished that entire plate. Almost.

How do you feel about eating raw meat/ fish dishes?

(J)enever #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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The first time I heard of jenever (or genever) was when I caught an episode of the travelogue, The Getaway, which featured Seth Meyers and his brother, Josh, in Amsterdam. My family was planning a trip to Amsterdam in the coming months ahead, so I thought it was opportune that I stumbled on this episode. One segment showed the brothers in a bar trying jenever, which I learnt then, is the national and traditional liquor of the country.

At the time, I was making lists of places to visit and local food/ drinks to try, so after watching that episode, jenever went straight onto the list which already had pickled herring (which I absolutely loved) and bitterballen (which was errr…not too bad though I don’t think I’ll try it again, but was glad I did at least once).

Our jenever was served in these tulip glasses but unfortunately not from the exotic looking bottle

We were at Zaanse Schans, specifically at the Pancake Restaurant de Kraai, when I had the chance to try jenever. It was a little before lunch, we had appetisers (not pancakes) and I shared a glass of jenever with my sister. Thank goodness it was just half a glass because boy, that drink was potent! For my inexperienced tastebuds, it tasted similar to gin and it burnt slightly down my throat. I chased it with a little bit of dark beer and felt slightly better, though I did feel woozy later and was happy to sit and enjoy the view until the wooziness wore off.

Once it did, we continued our meanderings of Zaanse Schans, going from windmill to windmill. Then later, on the way back into Amsterdam city, we got on the wrong train, which was headed to Rotterdam, instead. I blamed the jenever.

Anyone else here tried jenever before? Or maybe tried a local liquor of a country or place you visited?