2.28.2010

Wonderland Beef Noodle Soup


Ta -Da! Wonderland Beef Noodle Soup!


Albert was away this weekend to see team Canada win the men's hockey gold medal in his hometown of Vancouver. I made the best of this weekend by inviting some girlfriends over for a small gathering.

On the dinner menu was my homemade beef noodle soup. This is not too difficult to make at all; it just takes time. Here to share with you are some pictures and simple instructions.




The ingredients (rice wine, soy sauce, and rock sugar missed this group photo, sorry)

Click on the picture to see the labels on those Chinese sauces. You can buy them at most Asian grocery stores.


First, cook the beef, and a couple of slices of ginger in boiling water until the blood is out. Take the beef out.





Cook onions first on low heat until tender with some oil, and then add garlic, ginger, scallions, some rock sugar (or regular sugar), soy sauce, and two of those of Asian sauces -- Spicy Bean Paste and Sweet Starchy Paste.




Add the beef, carrot, radish (you don't have to add them if you don't like them) and continue to stir fry everything on medium heat. Add a generous amount of rice wine.

Add half of the tomatoes you want to cook and continue to cook until the tomatoes are almost dissolved.

Don't add any broth or water yet. Turn down the heat to low and cover the pot to cook for an hour. We want to cook the flavors into the meat, carrot, and radish. Depending on the pot you use, you might need to add water or stir it from time to time.

I have this super nice pot (a gift from Fen and Christy!!) that keeps most of the heat and liquid in, so no need to add water at all.




One hour later



Add chicken or beef broth and more tomatoes. Cook another 20 minutes.




Make noodles and veggies together to save time and space.

Season the soup with salt, pepper, sugar, or more water to taste.

Drain the noodles and veggies, add the beef soup.

Very important final steps: top with fresh scallions, cilantro, fresh tomato slices, white pepper, and some black seasame oil.



Ta -Da! Wonderland Beef Noodle Soup!

The result? Not super good, but not too bad either. A very safe and standard taste of Chinese beef noodle soup. If I can do it, I am sure you can do it even better.


2.17.2010

Greece Adventure - Day 7 - a cold, stinky, and rainy day in Santorini


I like this a mythical sea creature on a boat


As much as I enjoy re-living my time on the islands, I can't help but to remember how disappointed I was on my last day in Santorini. It has been almost 5 months since my vacation in Greece, and I can still feel the coldness of the “not hot” hot springs by the volcano and I can still smell rain soaked donkey poop on the winding staircase down to the old port. I expected my last day in Santorini to be forever memorable, and it was, but for all the wrong reasons.

Expectations:

Start with a leisure walk down the stairs from downtown Fira to the old port, followed by a breezy boat ride to the volcano for a hike, and then we would be dropped into the hot springs for a relaxing swim before we come back happily and satisfied.

Reality:

We woke up to a raining and cold day. After breakfast, we spent almost one hour walking down the stairs from downtown Fira to the old port. I walked as slowly as possible because it was raining and we had to walk carefully to aviod the piles and piles of donkey poop. Occasionally, we had to scurry to the side of the road to avoid being trampled by the occasional tourist riding a donkey down those same steps. Occasionally, I would hear a scream and/or curse as someone slipped and fell onto the poop. To make it even worse, I was wearing flip flops.




Picture taken before the heavy rain, before we walked down the stairs to the old port, and before we saw all the poop these donkeys produced...


The breezy boat ride to the volcano was too breezy that it was freezing. The walk on the volcano indeed took place but was done in the pouring rain. And then the hot springs that I was most looking forward to turned out to be cold and smelly. The water was beautiful because it was in green, yellow, and red due to the minerals from the volcano, but it was not hot at all.

Right before I was about to jump into the ocean, I was stopped in front of everyone by the staff asking if I knew how to swim. Nobody else was stopped but me! So I looked at him and said, “yes”. He looked hesitantly and asked me one more time, “Can you really swim?” I got a bit annoyed and said “yes, in various styles.” So he let go of my arm.

I wasn’t in the mood to argue with anyone while I was in my bikini in front of this beautiful colorful water. However, being discriminated on was no fun! Even though I knew he was just concerned about our safety, it was done in quite an embarrassing way. So, in order to change how the Santorini boat tour workers think about skinny Asian ladies they meet in the future, I stayed very brave and swam for the longest time in the group (only 15 minutes) in this very cold, salty, and smelly volcano water.




Arriving to the volcano from this boat, looking back at Fira

Major lessons learned:
  1. Greece changes a lot in different weather conditions. Plan accordingly by the weather reports and prepare for the worst.
  2. This boat tour should be fine, so if you get their on a sunny day, sign up for it immediately for that day.
  3. The volcano hot spring is not hot at all.
  4. Do not walk up from or down to the old port. Just take the gondola. I don’t think riding the donkey is a good choice either as they are stinky, moody, and probably being abused by their owners.

PS: Due to the high risk of my camera touching donkey poop, I took very few pictures this day. Visit this website for more info about the tour.

2.14.2010

La Chamade



La Chamade, is a story about two very different kinds of love, a 1966 classic French novel, and a book I wish to have discovered a long time ago instead of now.


It is about a 30 year old lady, Lucile, leaving a 50 year old man to be with a young guy named Antoine. What an unoriginal storyline, even back in the 60s, but Fran├žoise Sagan made all the difference. Just follow Fran├žoise Sagan, and read every sentence carefully into each character's mind, you will learn so much about why men and women need one another (or not).


What does La Chamade really mean? In French, it is a military term means a signal by drum or trumpet inviting an enemy to a parley. You will need to read the book to know what it really means in the story.


The novel was made into a movie in 1968 -- English name is "Heartbeat"; poorly translated into "Farewell" in Chinese (see the poster above). A 2009 newly translated version of the book in English was named That Mad Ache .


From merely reading the words, I couldn't quite understand why Lucile could behave and think the way she did without scaring those men away. After seeing a few clips of the movie on youtube and visually seeing the young and beautiful Catherine Deneuve as this Lucile, I immediately understood why -- do not underestimate the power of beauty and youth.



Here is a short clip with Lucile and Charles sitting on the bench, meeting Antoine and his older girlfriend (in a red coat).



This is one of my favorite quotes in the book, coming from Lucile's 50 year old original boyfriend. He said to Lucile when she wanted to leave him for Antoine --
"You will come back to me, Lucile. I love you for yourself. Antoine loves you for what you are together. He wants to be happy with you; that's the way it is at his age (30). I want you to be happy independently of me. All I have to do is to wait."


This is one of my favorite paragraphs, describing Lucile and Antoine's relationship when they finally got together --
Even in their most tender moments, there was something disquieting and violent between them. And if at times they suffered from this uneasiness, they also knew strangely, that if it disappeared in either of them, their love would vanish with it.


If you have nothing special to do on this Valentine's Day, and if you are brave and curious enough, get yourself a copy of La Chamade and fall in love!

2.10.2010

I Wish You Love




A friend once complained about how most love songs are sad ones. My response is that song writers are more emotionally charged when they are heart broken, and when they are happy, they are probably out enjoying it. Same thing for the song listeners.

"I wish you love" is one of my favorite love songs, written initially in French and first recorded in 1957. Many years ago I discovered it at the end of a movie when I was deeply amazed by the simple melody and the lyrics. Some years later, a good friend introduced me to Rachael Yamagata when I found the best voice (yet) to deliver this understanding, caring, and aching heart.

Visit the wiki page about this song for more info.

Rachael Yamagata's wiki page says that Rachael is a child of divorced parents, growing up between her Japanese father - an attorney in D.C., and her Italian-German mother - an artist/painter in New York. The texture of her voice somehow shows how complex she might be.

"I Wish You Love" -- Lyrics

I wish you bluebirds in the spring
To give your heart a song to sing
And then a kiss, but more than this
I wish you love

And in July a lemonade
To cool you in some leafy glade
I wish you health
And more than wealth
I wish you love

My breaking heart and I agree
That you and I could never be
So with my best
My very best
I set you free

I wish you shelter from the storm
A cozy fire to keep you warm
But most of all when snowflakes fall
I wish you love

Have a happy Valentine's Day this Sunday!

Don't forget to say "I love you" if you can, or say "I wish you love" at the very least.