Tom Yum Noodle Soup with Gluten-free Ramen

With all the leftover Tom Yum Soup that I made a few days ago, I figured this would be a good broth to have with the Lotus Foods brand gluten-free rice ramen I picked up from Costco a few months ago during our quarterly haul. So no, I am not gluten-free, nor will I ever be, and I actually think leading a gluten-free lifestyle when you actually do NOT have a gluten allergy is just bad for your health and bad for society at large. The real reason I was attracted to this at Costco when I saw it was just the idea that the label said that the texture is just like regular ramen (which is made with wheat, and sometimes eggs), but it’s made from brown rice and millet only. It’s organic, gluten-free, and vegan naturally. Plus, it only takes about three minutes to cook!

Well, the label wasn’t lying: it was really quick cooking, and the texture really was just like regular ramen! I liked the bite as well as the texture and taste of the noodles. I didn’t even miss the wheat or eggs. I’d definitely buy this again, but since this is Costco sized, we still have ten servings left!

Nuoc cham methods

Even though Vietnamese food overall is pretty laborious, one of the most common things on a Vietnamese meal table is actually one of the quickest and easiest, and that’s nuoc cham, the ubiquitous, fish-based dipping sauce that is sweet, salty, sour, and umami. It comes together in less than 15 minutes, and when you have a mortar and pestle, you don’t even have to mince any garlic, and it could come together even quicker!

I used to pound the garlic and the chilies for this with a make-shift mortar and pestle the way my mom does it, which is pounding these two ingredients against sugar in a bowl with the back of the knife, but now that I have a real mortar and pestle, it’s so much more satisfying to mash in the mortar and so much quicker, too. I also think the flavors are also stronger and more pronounced with the fish sauce now, but I guess my opinion is biased since I obviously know the change I’ve made to my method.

I posted a video on TikTok and Instagram for my method, which is pretty much my mom’s method for making nuoc cham. And a former colleague who is Vietnamese said that his method was completely different, but he still “approved” of mine.

WHAT METHOD COULD BE BETTER THAN ONE THAT HAS POUNDED GARLIC AND CHILIES? 😀

Sunday cooking videos

Well, now that I’ve got this new job, I can’t slack off and cook during the weekdays anymore. Yep, I said it: when I was at my last job, pretty much since the pandemic began, I probably spend a good chunk of my work day working… on cooking and filming videos. Not like it really mattered since I knew that the company wasn’t going anywhere and that I’d still perform better than most of my colleagues on half the number of hours actually at my computer, but hey, who cares now?

What this means, though, is that now that I actually am working at a company that I care about, and I have to limit the time I spend doing any real cooking and filming to Sundays. Saturdays are the days we go out and explore a new neighborhood, while Sundays are the day when I can record and cook food for the videos and for the week. Today, I made and filmed videos for Tom Yum Soup and Vietnamese egg meatloaf. It was a tiring day, but at least I know that I not only have content to work with, but I also have delicious food for the week.

Virtual birthday party for kids

Today was my cousin’s son’s 8th birthday, and they “threw” him a virtual birthday party with his family and friends from his school, hosted by a party planning company called So Fun City. I will admit: I wasn’t sure what to expect of this given that kids’ birthday parties are already awkward to me when adults come (WHY IS THIS A THING??? WHY? ONLY KIDS SHOULD BE ATTENDING KIDS’ BIRTHDAY PARTIES!!!!!), but I decided to join the Zoom anyway just to see my little nephew and participate.

Well, it was just as awkward and boring as I thought it would be. The kids were attempting to do activities “together,” but some were tuned out, some were participating because it was clear their parents forced them to, and some were just doing their own thing completely. Two of my other cousins were dialed in along with me, so we just started texting on the side to comment on what was going on.

Virtual birthday parties should NOT be happening for kids. Who could possibly enjoy this???

Washington Heights street art

I’ve spent very little time in Washington Heights, and that’s probably a bad thing since it’s a fun area with lots of good food and activity. We went up there to meet my friend and her husband for Cuban food at a fun and colorful spot, and afterwards, we explored the area, wandering around and noticing all the interesting street art.

Ten years ago when I first moved to this city, seeing street art or “graffiti” art was pretty rare… unless it actually WAS graffiti. Now, it seems to be in almost every neighborhood, just at different rates. Not only that, but some walls and buildings tend to change up their art very often! Lots of the street art we’ve seen this year have been covering themes of political injustice (ahem, Trump), racial injustice, COVID-19, and wearing a mask. These are examples when art mirrors life and makes a statement about our life today. I hope the street art movement continues to flourish here.

Cantonese-dominated Manhattan Chinatown

Since I am Cantonese on my dad’s side, I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated Cantonese food, but I think it’s fair to say that both San Francisco Chinese food and New York (Manhattan) Chinatown are dominated by Cantonese restaurants and bakeries. This isn’t totally a bad thing, but it means that there’s less variety given how vast and diverse Chinese food actually is. One thing I realize I’d never really done in Manhattan Chinatown was have Sichuanese food. We were down there tonight and were thinking about what to eat for dinner, and Chris suggested we get Sichuanese. I said I didn’t know of any places, so he quickly looked something up and we chose one.

Well, even if you are a Sichuanese restaurant here, there’s still pressure and demand to have Cantonese dishes on the menu. This menu was vast and had so many dishes from both cuisine types. So while we still got our beloved mapo tofu, dan dan noodles, and other Sichuanese delights, we also got Cantonese-style fish, as well. It’s the best of both worlds!

Restaurant openings during the pandemic

My friend has been following a lot of new restaurant openings in the New York area, and she excitedly texted me to let me know that Prince Tea House would be opening a location in Forest Hills, and she wanted us to go. They have this tea-flavored mille crepe cake that looked amazing online, and she needed us to have it.

Unfortunately, restaurant openings during the pandemic, especially ones that have trendy dishes, have been a bit crazy. Even with the smaller crowds, there still ARE crowds; this restaurant, on average, reported a wait time of just over 2 hours for each party! And I reviewed the menu; other than the desserts, there really wasn’t anything else there that I really wanted to try. There was no way any of us were going to tolerate this. So we decided to pick another place in another neighborhood because none of us wants to wait in this city for good food, pandemic or not.

Vitamin B12 and D

In New York City, as I’ve been told, having a vitamin D deficiency is pretty common. Since vitamin D is taken in by the body through a combination of milk/dairy products, leafy greens, and the sun (primarily), in a concrete jungle, citizens spend a tiny percentage of their time outdoors. So when I get my annual physical results back, twice I’ve seen “borderline vitamin D deficient” on the list, and the doctor advises me to take a vitamin D supplement… which I’ve been taking… on and off to be honest because I am lazy. Then, the other vitamin that has been slightly low is vitamin B12. B12 is not really present in plants; humans consume this usually through meat, eggs, and fish; fish is especially high in this.

This time around, I already knew that I would not be vitamin B12 deficient. We’ve been eating more fish this year, especially since I usually put sardines on our avocado toast about once a week. Sardines are the best and most sustainable fish since they’re low on the food chain and thus have little to no mercury risk, and they’re just so good. Chris has become addicted to them and expresses a little disappointment when some time has passed, and I haven’t made the avo toast with sardines. That’s how good these things are.

Alcohol during the pandemic

While it’s been hard for pretty much every brick and mortar business, especially restaurants and bars, during the pandemic, the good news seems to be that liquor stores have been doing quite well. COVID-19 has given birth to a sales boom for alcohol retailers since consumers are not able to visit bars and restaurants to imbibe as often and as much as they’d like. Consumers have also been looking to stock up on their alcohol supply, and well, our household is included in that.

Now before you judge, Chris and I absolutely are nowhere near being alcoholics. On average, I probably have somewhere between 3-4 drinks total per week. Chris drinks likely about double what I drink (I think?). As we’ve gotten older, and really since the beginning of our relationship, we’ve always prioritized quality of alcohol over quantity, so I’d rather spend more on a well made cocktail or a really good bottle of wine and have less of it, rather than spend less on loads of crappy alcohol that will likely give me a bad hangover the next day.

But yes, Chris has taken charge of the alcohol deliveries. It’s been one of the few things he’s looked forward to during the pandemic — when we get a call that our alcohol delivery has arrived, and the delivery person brings it up. But what he looks forward to the most, no doubt, is when his Australian chocolate and biscuits orders have been shipped from Australia. As someone who “shows emotion on the inside,” as he likes to say, he is outwardly enthusiastic when this box has arrived twice since quarantine.

Apple Cider Yeast Donuts

The next video that I am working on is for apple cider yeast donuts. I’d honestly liked the idea of apple cider donuts for as long as I’ve lived in the Northeast, but in reality, most of the donuts seemed a bit too dense and oily for me. I kept trying different ones, whether they were from colleagues or at farmers’ markets, and still, they were just okay — not anywhere near what I thought would be my favorite, ideal donut.

Then, I had the ones at Terhune Orchards in Jersey during our day trip there in August, and I was blown away. These were light, fluffy, slightly sweet, with not even a hint of greasiness. These were the apple cider donuts I had missed out on for so long.

So today, I decided to make the Serious Eats recipe for apple cider donuts — they are yeast-raised and shallow-fried in coconut oil, which is supposed to keep the donuts light and prevent that “greasy fried food smell or taste” from lingering. I’d never made donuts before, so this was my very first time. And these donuts delivered: they were perfect (well, other than the shape of some) in flavor and lightness, and they turned out even better and fluffier the next day, with the flavor becoming even more pronounced! These are a donut lover’s DREAM!