Food: Hoisin Chicken Wraps

I love wraps. E loves the end of wraps where all the wrap carbs are gathered so he can bite into bread-like density. I was in the grocery store earlier than E because he was at work and I was hungry so I decided to search for food to cook. Something healthy, since I was going to feed him super sinful brownies. He loves wraps, and wraps are easy. So I adapted a recipe off here.

Ingredients:

Chicken – we marinated with Hoisin and some seasoning before grilling them
Hoisin
Watercress
Tortilla wraps (found in the bread section at the grocery store after I searched up and down the frozen section)
Cucumber – E hates raw stuff so he opted out of cucumber wraps. Needless to say, it was almost full-meat wrapping for him.
Mushrooms
Corn
Garlic

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The best thing about wraps is that you don’t really have to care about measurements. You just wrap what you like and eat what you wrap. I like extra raw garlic in mine and extra corn and extra meat… as long as my wrap is bursting with stuff that isn’t bitter gourd or celery, I’m all good. E likes his wrap extra crispy so we heated them for longer.

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Slurps! I think the recommended serving was something like 2 wraps per person. Heck, we ate around 4 each.

xxx

Desserts: Surprise Gooey Strawberry Brownies

Happy September to All! It’s an extremely eventful month universally. September magazine issues are the largest and there are so many birthdays to celebrate! E and I share the same birthday month and this year it is the first time we’ll be in the same country to celebrate it! I am thrilled.

Unfortunately, as my duties as a student start to become a mountain of tasks and my calendar starts to pack, I won’t be around (in the east side of Singapore) to celebrate E’s birthday with him. So I decided to make surprise brownies this week. (My only free friday for the next 2 weeks.)

I modified the recipe from BBC Good Food and after eating it, I will have to make more modifications. Nothing is ever perfect, especially on the first try.

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Chocolate/Cocoa/Strawberries/Flour/Sugar/Eggs/Butter

I was so happy to find Ghirardelli baking chocolate in the supermarket! This is the first time I’m seeing it outside of the USA and I was so excited! Hahaha Instead of raspberries as mentioned in the recipe, I used strawberries because strawberries here are sour instead of sweet. I have no idea why. And they are much more affordable than the raspberries. And I’ll bet E doesn’t like the taste of raspberries. Once again, butter is not Buttercup because it is not real butter. Seriously. I can’t emphasise how bad this fake butter is for you and your arteries.

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The best part about this recipe is that I didn’t need to do much whisking, so my already-aching arms could be given a break. Although, carrying the groceries from the store to the kitchen is heavily taxing too. For people who like to live in oblivion and just eat good food, I suggest for you not to look at the recipe because honestly it is scary. And for that the next time I will definitely reduce the amount of sugar and butter in the batter and maybe add more flour to get a more chewy texture.

Surprisingly I took just slight over 45 minutes to do all the prep work and get the tin into the oven. This is quite a feat for me because I am always exceeding expected prep times by hours. I always spend so much time getting ingredients and equipment out.

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I love watching my trays in the oven change with heat. It is indeed magical and special.

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After this shot was taken I had to bake it for even longer because the centre was too gooey. But I didn’t take any photos of that. Oops we forgot cause we were too blinded by gluttony. This recipe is perfect for surprises because you don’t have to use any whisking equipment or make loud noises while stirring. In fact, most of the work is done with a spatula or wooden spoon. You can be as quiet as a mouse and still cook up an amazing brownie.

I met E at a grocery store to buy stuff for our amazing risotto (weekend food) and for dinner (wraps!). We made some yummy wraps for dinner. He loves wraps. But more about that in another post.

I am so excited for the next weekend of cooking adventures. Maybe we should use up those frozen egg whites. (I should probably start doing my homework too.)

xx
Su

Baking with E: eclairs

Baking is so therapeutic. It lifts your spirits and pampers your nose. The smell of butter or vanilla is so pleasurable and it really makes me motivated to keep on baking. I have been watching Sorted Food for quite a while but I never really had anywhere to bake. Thankfully, E’s place is wonderfully stocked with all the necessary baking equipment and then some.

 

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One of his favorite desserts are eclairs. He loves cheesecakes too, but the last time I made a dessert, it was an oreo cheesecake for his mock birthday. So in this couple of weeks, we’ve been trying our hand at choux pastry and crème patisserie. Since it is also durian season. We thought of making some durian puffs too! The recipe can be found here. I love watching Sorted Food on YouTube because these four boys are super hilarious and charming all while being incredibly informative. This recipe took so many eggs. We took Ben’s advice and froze the egg whites for later use. We’re planning to make macarons or maybe mousse. I haven’t decided.

 

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Honestly we haven’t gotten the pastry perfect. The last batch we did turned out better than the rest though. My favorite part of the process is watching the pastry rising in the oven. And eating the ginger-infused cream. Slurp.

image If anyone knows how to make real awesome choux pastry please let me know what the secret is. Because my pastry never seems fluffy enough. image

To get the consistency of the batter right I found that maintaining a high enough temperature was important. And we had to reduce the amount of ginger in the cream. I always like extra ginger, but some have a problem with that. I guess baking is like everything else, with time and practice, it will improve and develop closer to perfection. It really cultivates the virtue of patience and my biceps with all that beating haha. Also, we used Lindt Dark Chocolate as the cherry on top. So it all turned out very awesome. (Save for the breadiness!) 

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Melting the chocolate was the easiest part and it was so satisfying to see chocolate chunks melt into a gooey consistency. Learning to pipe the pastry was tough because I had no idea how to make the eclairs come out fat and happy. In the end, it took some pressure and patience to get eclairs that didn’t look like bread sticks. Look at the awesome creammmmm. Slurpz. And and and lesson of the day: if you buy Buttercup brand from the dairy section or butter section in the grocery stores. Please stop. It isn’t butter at all. Seriously. I was duped for 20 years of my life. It is made with vegetable extracts (which means it is NEVER good for you, read: trans fat). I don’t know about you but I like my butter from milk. This applies to spreadable butter (never).

image Till our next baked adventure or whenever I am not so bogged down by my schedule.

XX Su

Short Location Update

I’m back in school for the second week now and honestly, I haven’t done a sliver of work but I have been as attentive as I can during class. So far. I’m trying to go paperless this semester, and since my modules are not terribly crazy with mathematical formulae, I think I can handle it. 

Anyway being back in Singapore has been great. I am still trying to embrace the weather, but the sun is shining in a minute and its torrential rains the next. It’s crazy I feel like if you combine the San Francisco winds with this rainfall it’ll be a full-blown typhoon. 

I’ll be back again soon once I catch up with my lectures and tutorials. Yikes.

xx

Southpacking Part 1: Santiago, Chile

I’m alive all! It’s been a whole year since I was in South America with my amigos Sheila, Alex and Nipton! So I am here finally deciding to write about it because my year in the USA has come to a close and I am back in my sunny island by the sea (I have realized that island by the sea is redundant, because islands are naturally by the sea, unless they are in a lake..? I digress.) I haven’t been updating because I am super overwhelmed being back. I love being back (but if the temperature could just be 10degrees Celsius lower that would be great). I don’t really intend this to be a guide for traveling. I can’t possibly write a detailed guide one year belated. It would be outdated and irresponsible.

A lot of planning went into this 11-week trip. Because it’s a strange land, I can’t speak a shred of Spanish, and it was the longest period of time I was going to be away from home. My parents and sister really supported me through the trip and it would have never been possible without them. I’m forever grateful.
We knew we wanted to travel in South America before heading to California and there were some hiccups along the way, but eventually we made it back alive and I wouldn’t exchange it for the world.

Getting from Singapore to South America 

This one is a tricky but fundamental issue. We kinda had an idea where we wanted to venture, which areas of South America we were headed. That being said, flights to Sao Paulo from Singapore are in the area of S$3000 and upwards. There was no way we could afford that and still plan for 11 weeks. We’re poor students. The flight there took up the main bulk of the costs. We ended up taking LAN to Santiago from Sydney. Yeah, that’s a pretty long way around the world, but as scrimping engineering students, you can bet that this is the most calculated and cost-saving route.
We took flyScoot to Sydney and I took half a row of seats for sleeping which was awesome. Spent a night in Sydney and took a plane straight to Santiago the next morning. LAN was surprisingly awesome. Having never heard of such a flight carrier, I was truly blown away by the quality of wine they had. Hey, it’s Chilean after all!

Santiago, Chile

When we arrived in Chile, it was winter. As a tropical islander, this did not go down well and I piled on layer after layer of clothing. We had 4 nights to acclimatize to the mucho frio temperatures while exploring the city. Santiago is beautiful, I wish I could have captured how the city was framed by the Andes mountains better. Everything was a breath of fresh air because I had on travel goggles and everything seemed novel and exciting. After getting over the fact that they have an amazing mountain range backdrop, the second thing that struck me was that there were dogs everywhere. I’ve seen so many friendly and silly-looking dogs here, dogs that followed us around and seemed like they were guiding us across the street, dogs that slept with their bellies up, dog walkers with 10 dogs and dogs that bark at bicycles. Dogs that sleep like humans. They are super adorable.

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View from San Cristobal

San Cristobal was our first hike of the trip. It was a primer for the Torres Del Paine National Park (will update next time). It wasn’t super tough to hike up the hill,  save for a few steep portions. But the view was great, there was a statue of Maria at the top of the hill. I remember interacting with people from Uruguay and Paraguay on the way down who were intrigued by the Timberland shoes we wore. (Not we, but the other three were wearing them.)

Santiago has parks peppered around the city and we managed to go Santa Lucia, which has some unique architecture and sculptures.

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Santa Lucia was like the city park I never knew I wanted. There were so many elements which made the park pretty architecturally. And although it was winter, there was greenery. Admittedly, they didn’t have many people in the park at the time that we went, so it wasn’t super lively or anything. But the whole vibe and decorative accents made it interesting. File under: inspiration.

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Brick and cement accents in the park Santa Lucia

We also walked past this park we named the PDA park.
Because there were so many couples making out. Everywhere. Actually, the whole Santiago is made up of couples making out. 

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PDA park: a couple in each others’ arms

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Emporio La Rosa

And food highlight of Chile: ICE CREAM
Emporio La Rosa has really good ice cream with a crazy number of flavours, I wouldn’t say it could beat Bi-Rite in SF, but it was definitely very appetizing and unique.

After the 11 weeks, most of my Spanish vocabulary consists of food. (I’m a true Singaporean) We ate a lot of ice cream here and learnt about fruit names. I saw so many people wearing awesome shoes that I told Sheila I needed to get a pair when I came back. (And we did.) I don’t think we’ve explored enough of Santiago, but at this point we were jet-lagged and anxious to get out of the city and into the wilderness. There is so much history in Chile, and we learnt a lot from the free (not so free) city tours. I had an awesome privilege of rooming with Luz, a Chilean girl in Berkeley and she filled me up with so much Chilean history. I wish I could type it as eloquently as she explained it to me. But all I want to type now is that Chile is so rich in its landscapes and history, I definitely need to return.
We day-tripped to a little town called Valparaiso which was around one or two hours away from Santiago.

Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso is colorful and charming. We alighted right in the middle of a flea market. Immediately, locals told us to keep our cameras in our bags because robbery is not uncommon in the area. Honestly, we made that out via their body language because our Spanish was so poor. This happened twice, so we were pretty wary about people around us. Please don’t take my camera I want to take nice photos of the next 11 weeks.
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Valparaiso’s slums

Isn’t it ironic how all these slums are so chaotic that they make such a picturesque sight? The colors and chaos are everything. There are these wonderful paint jobs, graffiti, alleys and structures here. So many people warned us of robberies but thankfully we didn’t get robbed. We did hear about other travelers getting robbed though.
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That’s the furnicular we took to get some views. There was a queue for it and it brought us up to this little town up there where there were cafes, shops and schools. We saw a preschool having an excursion here and they were dressed up in some cute sailor outfits. I had no idea what they were but the babies were too cute and distracting.
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Maybe it’s because I look like a star? Hahaha

We just spent the day traipsing through the colorful town, and got stopped by two large groups of students wanting to take photos with us. They were so intrigued! I guess we really were like aliens to them. In Santiago, we were very obviously foreign and we got a lot of stares from people on the streets but we got used to it by the second or third day.

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Imagine the Bear in the Big Blue House. That’s his Big Blue House. Just kidding I believe that’s the navy’s building. Valparaiso is by the sea, so I guess it makes sense? Chileans from Santiago come here during the weekends for little trips to the beach and why not? It is so quaint!

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It’s like I’m in a Wes Anderson film set.

All these colors bring joy to my heart and a quite the departure from Santiago. It’s no wonder people like to escape to here from the city. When we were there it was winter, but the temperature was more bearable than in Santiago. But that could be because we got used to the cold quickly. It was very sunny and I was happy.
So far so good: Santiago was a good transition for us to acclimatize and nothing bad had happened, other than eating super oily chorillanas. (Please do your arteries a favor and minimize consumption of that.) That pretty much sums up the first part of Chile in our 11-week adventure. Next, we head on to the nature and wilderness and away from urbanites.
x

See you later, San Francisco

I had an impromptu final aerial class today. And then I realized, this is it. This is what saying goodbye is. Everything I love and hate about living here is coming to an end. It’s my last week living in San Francisco.

I’m glad to be leaving the summer flies, my matchbox apartment, the completely erratic public transport system and the even more erratic weather.

But as I write this I look out of the window of the bus and I see a dense and thick fog rolling just under Sutro Tower. The majesty of that fog as it creates a new horizon is indelible. I’m not going to see that fog in a long long time. There are so many things I will miss: the creative and crazy people here, the fresh and delicious produce, the beautiful architecture, the random parks around the city, the colors of the city, the diversity and everything charming about San Francisco. (Not to mention those amazingly fresh oysters!) 

On one hand this is the longest and furthest I have been away from home, and I can’t wait to go back and on the other hand I think I’ve fallen in love with this city and it’s hard to leave.

My last class w Lauralynn :(

My last class w Lauralynn

My awesome instructor Lauralynn has pink hair and an amazing smile. I really will miss taking her classes. She’s super encouraging and manages to make me smile even though every time I am on the silks, pole or trapeze I am dying and my muscles are begging me to let go. She’s amazing.

For now I will try to soak all of it in until I leave on Saturday for the airport. 

x

 

The Six-Pack Challenge

Working on that.

I have completely no idea how this challenge came to be. We were probably Skyping and a casual comment was made and the competitive being in E just jumped at the challenge. There we have, the  Six-Pack Challenge. If you were expecting it to be something to do with craft beer, it isn’t. We are challenging each other to get 6 lumps on our torsos. 

Rules of the Challenge:

Before we agreed to enter the challenge, we had to draw the lines clearly: the definition of a six-pack is an active six-pack. This means that the six-pack only has to show was the abs are engaged. Because the thought of having a thoroughly defined six-pack without actively engaging my core is kinda terrifying. Maybe this is just my imagination? Other than that, no rules and whoever gets a six-pack first wins. Loser gives a massage (I mean duh, I worked hard to get that six-pack right?!) and cooks a meal for the winner me. Ha. Because I am going to win this guys. I am going to get that massage. I know that because E just told me he ate a cookie for breakfast. Ha!

Okay, I have to admit, I totally ate a ton of chocolate this past week. What? I had cravings, it’s legit. I’m don’t deal well with deprivation. Even though sometimes stopping at one bar of chocolate can feel like I am depriving myself. Especially when there’s See’s Candies near where I work. It’s See’s Candies, people. How can I not partake in that delicious slice of heaven?! Plus it’s my second-to-last week in California, so I have to eat what I can. If I could, I would buy every single 1-pound pack they had and gobble them up. SO GOOD.

Remember the John Legend song All of Me? He said ‘even when I’m losing, I’m winning’. That’s going to be E’s mantra after he loses to me. Aww yeah. Wish me luck! (All the barre and aerial classes won’t be for nothing!)

We challenge you! 6-pack challenge let’s go!

x

The Mission, Packing and Ambivalence

Don't you just love the architecture?

Don’t you just love the architecture?

It’s my 2nd last full weekend in San Francisco!

It’s my 2nd last Sunday in San Francisco.

I really am confused as to how to feel about this. The homesick part of me wants to just go back home to a house bigger than a matchbox, a diverse array of hawker food and just seeing everyone I know and being able to talk to them and see them. I said see twice because physically seeing someone is really different from a virtual presence.

Like every weekend, I head to the Mission. It’s one of my favorite places in SF because it is so lively, colorful and inspiring. The essence of San Francisco can be captured in the Mission: diversity, art, architecture, entrepreneurial spirit and warmth. Also, food. I really fall in love with the city more with every weekend.

I go there every weekend because they have fresh and cheap grocery there. My favorite grocer is there: he has good prices and sweet golden apples. I don’t think I’ll be able to eat normal red apples after this. Golden apples are to regular apples what the Macbook Air is to other laptops. Once you have it, you won’t go back to regular old apples.

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Preach it, bruh.

The Mission is home to Clarion Alley, a community mural project. And I think it’s pretty damn fantastic. It isn’t as if San Francisco wasn’t colorful enough, but this alley just makes everything more rainbow-like. It isn’t a very large mural project, but the art on the walls are all symbolic and expressive.

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How amazing is this?! I wish I could paint like that. I was pretty caught up in the alley, looking at all the art.

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Sigh everything I will miss about SF is in the Mission. Other than Dolores Park. I should probably go again next weekend when the weather is better than the gloom status it is at now. So the main purpose I was at the Mission was to window shop. I say window because I know that I have close to no space in my luggage bags. Inhale and exhale ohmmmm. I want to buy everything in the shops here. A bicycle, a couch, a tea set, a silk-screened masterpiece and a pastel dresser. I ended up just buying fruits and some honey. The shops in the Mission are not crazy expensive like in Hayes. They are more accessible and makes me feel like actual people can afford stuff there. In Hayes, it’s just boutique after boutique after brunch place. That’s where I live. A poor student in the lunch ladies’ ‘hood.

Also, so many people make and sell art here. It’s amazing. I love imagining myself buying the art and hanging them on my imaginary walls, while drinking from my imaginary tea china and cleaning my imaginary pastel bike.

So I spent a lot of time window shopping, and when I did buy anything, they were like small items. (Kill me, I totally understand how small items add up and make my life miserable) I didn’t learn my lesson the previous time I had to move from Berkeley to San Francisco. Obviously.

I managed to squeeze (by a miracle) my sewing machine into my adventure backpack and cushion it with clothing. Now I am really hoping that the backpack doesn’t burst. Fortunately, I trust the quality of the backpack, it’s been with me through many miles of walking, 4WDs, night buses, cold, snow. (Reminder to self: need to blog about the great South American trip)

For now, the weather is telling me either to eat or sleep. Oink

xxx

 

Moraga Steps | Grandview Park

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Every day I am in the city I fall in love a little bit more. Even though I was kinda caught up with peanut butter yesterday (news: I finished the jar today, dilemma over whether I should buy another jar sets in) and snacked on 4 slices of peanut butter bread today alone, today I headed out to the Inner Sunset district after barre class to see the Moraga staircase or 16th Avenue Tiled Steps.

This reminds me, one year ago, I was at the Escadaria Selarón in Rio de Janeiro. How apt that one year later I’d be here at the steps inspired by the exact same place. Of course, the one is Rio is more majestic and in a much greater scale than the Moraga stairs. But I really appreciated how understated it was. Like it was a frame or an underscore to Grandview Park.

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Grand view indeed.

I convinced myself that the mini hike to the foot of the steps was already worth 2 slices of bread with peanut butter. And climbing up the stairs was worth another 2. Therefore, my peanut butter snacks are completely justified. I am good at math like that.

The stairs are so delicately pretty. I was hesitant about going on a gloomy day, but since I was out of the house, I went ahead anyway. I was also hoping that the gloom would mean that I wouldn’t have to hustle with many people on the steps. True enough, there wasn’t a hustle, but there was a healthy crowd there. I like that people add life and activity to the steps.

I couldn’t decide which flight of stairs was my favorite of the lot. It was a tie between the blue one and the moon one.

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I could be biased because I love blue. It is my secret favorite color. (That’s Su language and it means that it is subconsciously my favorite color and I only noticed it after analyzing my wardrobe and concluded that most of my clothes are in fact, a certain shade of blue.) But don’t you love the birds on the stairs? I’m always mesmerized by mosaic. One of the flights has tiny mirrors tiles that reflect little bits of what’s behind me – the city and the Pacific Ocean.

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And the next photo I just chanced upon while walking in the estate. I just love the layers of green in the frame. I wonder if the owner of the van bought it to match his house.

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Green on green on green

 

That’s a slice of San Francisco for today!

x x x

A Love Letter to Peanut Butter

Dearest Peanut Butter,

After Kaya was gone, all I thought about was you. I love how your creamy richness fills my tastebuds with sweet satisfaction. I find myself having constant cravings for you even though I’m full from dinner. I should have never cheated on you for dinner. What is dinner compared to the creamy delight that you are? Sometimes I like you creamy and sometimes I like you crunchy, all versions of you are just as amazing and wholesome. I know how people complain about your fat content, I want you to know that that does not matter a single bit to me. I love you that your fats keep my tummy satisfied and my brain aware that I have eaten more than I should. I love it when you are spread on bread alone, or with jam. I love you more than Nutella, because Nutella is just fake chocolate pretending to replace actual chocolate. I love that you are unpretentious and unassuming and that everyone can eat you (except people with peanut allergies, I feel so sorry for you). 

Please never change or run out. You are the best spread in my kitchen now.

Lots of love,

Su