Vegan lemon olive oil cake

Vegan baking is not something I ever imagined really getting into while I was in high school or college. I did bake a few vegan brownie recipes while in college because someone I worked with one summer inspired me with her own veganism. But I always thought of vegan baking as annoying because of all the substitutions that have to be made, and how not intuitive it all is. Eggs are typically used as a binder for cakes, cookies, and pancakes, so what do you use in place of them? The two major options in the realm of vegan baking seem to be a) flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flaxseed to 3 Tbsp water), and 2) aquafaba, which is a term for the bean liquid left in a can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas). How do you get buttery or creamy richness without butter or cream? You can use a rich oil like coconut oil or olive oil, or you can make cashew cream with soaked cashews blended with some water.

Once I started reading about all the alternatives, I realized it actually wasn’t that hard after all. But you can’t really just tweak a recipe and make 1:1 substitutes to make it vegan. You really have to start from scratch. And so I had this vegan lemon olive oil cake bookmarked for ages, but I never made it until today. I got inspired to make it after the non-vegan orange olive oil cake was such a hit at Chris’s mom’s cousin’s place a couple months ago, and I wanted to see how I could make a version of that cake but a) not use as much olive oil and b) not use as many eggs, or any eggs at all, as that recipe I originally used calls for a LOT!). All these ingredients can get really expensive. Plus, we’re living in high inflation times. And for baking, I rarely have heavy cream or cream cheese on hand, so it would be nice to get substitutes that are more pantry-based. This recipe had no egg substitute. I wondered if it would really bind together well or if it would totally fall apart. But I had been following this vegan baking blogger for ages, and she had over 68 5-star reviews, so I figured it had to be a pretty good recipe. I also thought it would turn out well when I saw metric measurements noted on her site. Ever since I got my cheap $10 digital kitchen scale, I don’t think I can go back to regular measuring cups for baking anymore. It’s so exact, and it’s just fun!

So I mixed the batter, added it to my greased, parchment-lined loaf pan, and baked it in the oven for 60 minutes. I let it cool and then unmolded it. Then I took it out and had a small slice, and wow – the edge piece was really crunchy, and the lemon and olive oil flavor really came out beautifully. The crumb was very moist and tight — not even a remote sign of falling apart. I used 10 grams less sugar because it just seemed like a lot of sugar, and the cake was just sweet enough to be called dessert.

I’m planning to share this cake with some neighbors, one of whom just had her second baby. I can’t wait to tell them that this cake is vegan!

Seis Vecinos and Lechonera La Pirana in the South Bronx

I’ve spent almost 16 years here in New York City now. It’s funny to think that when I first moved here, I thought I’d be here for 2-5 years and then leave. What the hell did I think I was going back to in San Francisco, anyway?

We came back to the South Bronx today for our annual pit stop since the pandemic at Lechonera La Pirana. We got an entire plate to go of Angel Jimenez’s famous Puerto Rican-style lechon (complete with crispy pork skin) for $20, plus I made sure we did not leave without a photo with Pookster, Angel, and his famous (and terrifying) machete. It’s been cute to see photos of Pookster with Angel and the machete over the years and see how the both of them have changed (and aged).

Given we were just a few blocks away from the popular Central American restaurant Seis Vecinos (which means “Six Neighborhoods” in Spanish), we finally had a sit-down meal here today after the last several visits when I’d wait in line at the lechon truck (in the hot sun, phew), and Chris would take Pookster to Seis Vecinos to pick up freshly made pupusas and our favorite Salvadoran-style horchata.

We have enjoyed endless delicious meals in New York across all five boroughs (and across the world), but I will say that this lunch we had at Seis Vecinos today was truly spectacular; even if we had never stopped at the lechon truck, this restaurant itself would have been worth the train ride up to South Bronx. We ordered a freshly blended papaya smoothie, passion fruit juice (both HUGE!), two pupusas (revuleta, which is a mix of chicharron, refried beans, and cheese, and cheese with loroco, the Salvadoran green herb we were introduced to last week while in El Salvador), and the fried fish filet, which was served with delicious refried beans, Salvadoran crumbly cheese, crema, a thick slice of avocado, maduros (fried sweet plantains), and two freshly grilled handmade corn tortillas.

The portions sizes for all the above were gigantic; all of these dishes are most definitely meant for sharing. The freshness was also extremely visible from the perfect ripeness and softness of the avocado to the rich fragrance of the masa used to make the thick corn tortillas. Another interesting thing about Salvadoran tortillas is that they are always made quite thicker than the average Mexican tortillas. The fish filet was very crispy and brown on the outside, with moist, flaky white fish on the inside, which Kaia happily devoured. We also loved the pupusas, both thick and gooey, also fragrant from the masa used to make the outside layer. The curtido that accompanied the pupusas was not too sour but pickled just enough to give some well-rounded tartness to the richness of the pupusa filling. In the end, we predictably had leftover food to take home.

We ended our meal with a thick slice of maracuya / passion fruit tres leches, which Kaia was extremely excited about, as she got to enjoy this Latin American treat twice during our trip two weeks ago. And we also got a Salvadoran horchata to go since we still weren’t over the delicious creaminess of this nutty drink.

The layout and space of the restaurant was also fun: the bar is long and spacious, and they have a great outdoor seating area (with covering) where we ate. It’s on a corner, so it benefits from that level of visibility. And much to Pookster’s excitement, we were sitting with a full-frontal view of the local fire station, where multiple fire trucks were coming in and out. One of Kaia’s favorite things right now is seeing and hearing sirens, whether they are on ambulances or fire trucks. She always knows the different types of vehicles and gets pumped up when she sees or hears the sirens going off. The fire station is what kept her excited and engaged for the full duration of our lunch, and she didn’t need to have any toys or temporary screen time to distract her thankfully.

There is something delicious pretty much everywhere in New York if you are willing to make the trek. These little gems are what make this city so special.

Today, I learned that regular granulated white sugar in the U.S. is not vegan.

I recently got off the library wait list for the cookbook The Vegan Chinese Kitchen: Recipes and Modern Stories from a Thousand-Year-Old Tradition, by Hannah Che. It recently won the James Beard Award for cookbooks and has been designated one of the best cookbooks of 2022. After just reading the introduction of the book on my Kindle, I found that it wasn’t surprising at all that she won a James Beard award for her writing: she is clearly passionate and obsessed with food in all its most minute details. When she decided to become a vegan, she worried that it would separate her from the traditions and food that her Chinese family celebrated. But then, she learned about zhai cai, the plant-based Chinese cuisine that emphasizes umami-rich ingredients that can be traced back over centuries to Buddhist temple kitchens.

Within just the first chapter, I found that I was not only loving her writing style, but I was learning so much about Chinese terms for food, flavor, and cooking, as well as… things that you’d think I should know about our own food supply, but I definitely do not (and you probably do not, either). Take this, for example: Hannah says she only cooks and bakes with organic white sugar because regular granulated cane sugar in the U.S. is actually processed with bone char. That’s right: animal ingredients are used in the processing of white (and even brown!) sugar in the U.S.! Specific brands like C&H don’t use bone char, which is often known and labeled as “natural carbon), and organic sugars completely ban the use of it. Granted, I’m not sure how other countries bleach their cane sugar to ensure it is white, but this is sadly what the U.S. does that few people are aware of. And if you doubt it, feel free to visit this PETA page that details more about this terrible process. It’s truly a shame and an embarrassment that the most basic processes are kept a secret in our food industry.

Today, at age 38, I learned that regular granulated white sugar in the United States is not vegan. That is absolutely bonkers.

Fruit varieties in El Salvador: Tropical, unique, and sometimes even fuzzy

Since our delicious trip to Colombia in May 2019, so exactly five years ago, I hadn’t been this excited to try local fruit while traveling. El Salvador, being in Central America, has a warm, tropical climate, which then makes it a great place for delicious fruit that you cannot get (or at least, get easily) in the U.S. While they have the usual fruits you’d expect, such as mangoes, pineapples, and papayas (all were extremely sweet and delicious!), we also came across and tried some new and unique ones we’d never previously tasted.

Paternas: This is one of those fruits that may appear strange to you as a Westerner if you’ve never had it. It strongly resembles petai or “stink beans” in its pod-like structure, which is HUGE. When you split the green pod open, a row of white seeds is revealed. The seeds are all covered in a soft, white, almost fuzzy marshmallow-like coating. When you eat these, you’re meant to use your teeth and scrape the white fuzzy fruit off the seeds. While the seeds should not be consumed raw (they’re quite hard), Salvadorans like to have the seeds boiled and then eat them as a snack with salt and lemon juice. This was not our favorite, as it was a bit of work and not much flesh, but it did have an interesting sweet flavor, plus a unique fuzzy texture.

Mamones (mamon for singular): These are very sour, tangy round fruits the size of extra-large cherries with a huge pit inside. When you crack through the hard green shell, a pale salmon-pink colored flesh is revealed that is similar to that of a lychee. Some are more sweet than sour. Overall, I’d compare them to those hard warheads candies that rotted my teeth as a child: you suck on them and then spit them out. While you can certainly gnaw on the flesh, it will cause a bit of extra work for you later when you floss. Somehow, I managed to get through about three pounds of these mamones (Chris only ate about 5-6), which cost just $1 at the local market in Centro Historico! When I saw them, I remembered we had them on the road from Medellin to Guatape in Colombia. There, they are known as mamoncillo.

Mamey: These appear like the mamey in Mexico, but are a completely different fruit (Mexican mamey fruit is called sapote here in El Salvador). They have a hard, brown exterior that is rough, almost like a cross between sand paper and a mature brown coconut. Once it’s peeled, a deep red-orange flesh is revealed. It tasted like something between a mango and a papaya, with faintly sweet flesh. Some pieces were softer, while others were crunchy. We got a large bag of mamey already peeled and cut up for us at the market for $1.

Nances: These look like yellow or orange colored cherries and are of a similar size. I got a bag of these fruit from a road side fruit vendor, and I have a feeling they were not quite ripe, unfortunately. Though I have read that locals eat nances both ripe and unripe. The fruits we had purchased were already warm in a bag, and when I opened it, this very different, almost fermented smell started coming out that was reminiscent of durian in terms of its pungency. When I bit into them, they were extremely chalky in texture. I wish I had the opportunity to eat these ripe, but alas, you just can’t try everything everywhere!

Mangoes: Clearly mangoes are not a new fruit for us, as we are THE mango family and always will be. But I do know that the mangoes grown and sold in El Salvador are not like the ones we get in the U.S. or have tried in India or Australia. Though I have read the variety is called either Indian or Creole mango, all I know for sure is that all the mangoes being sold at the markets and fruit stands are all a deep red color, with splashes of deep yellow and orange. Salvadorans love to eat their mangoes almost ripe and just ripe, so when you buy them pre-peeled and cut, they are usually one of these options (or even very unripe and green!). It must be a cultural thing, as in India, they love their mangoes extremely ripe to the point where they are so juicy that they drip down your arms as you eat them. Here in El Salvador, mangoes are usually served topped with different hot chili flakes, lime, or different savory/salty toppings. But when we had ours twice, I only wanted the ripe plain mangoes and specified this to the vendors. Even the semi-ripe mangoes had a strong sweet fragrance that made my mouth water. These mangoes were ultra delicious: they had this really pleasant, firm, almost meaty texture when you bite into them. Then, when you start chewing, the flavor is strong, potent, and in-your-face. It reminded me of the flavor and sweetness of the Filipino dried (and sugared) mangoes I used to have as a treat when I was a child that my grandma would often buy for us. They were so addictive; both times we had them, I was so sad when I was on my last bite.

Coconuts: We stopped at a road side stall and I asked for coconut water from a fresh coconut. Here, the coconut is usually already cut open, the juice poured into a plastic bag with the young coconut meat shaven, then stored in an ice chest until it’s purchased. But when I went up to the stall, I asked if I could have a freshly cracked one. The vendor happily agreed. She went to another ice chest where she had fat green coconuts stored, hacked it open with a machete, proceeded to pour the glorious juice into a bit pitcher, shaved the thick coconut shavings out, and then placed it all (a bit precariously!) into a big plastic bag with a straw. To drink this, you needed to hold the bag and the straw; there was no placing the bag down on any surface, otherwise the juice would be lost! It was cool, sweet and incredibly refreshing. The young white coconut flesh pieces were so satisfying and meaty.

Papaya: We had this in juice form several times, and it was delicious and sweet, unlike the miserable hit-or-miss papayas back in the U.S. I happily ordered this during our times eating out. We also enjoyed it as part of the breakfast buffet at our hotel, where it was a welcome end to brekkie. I could eat this papaya every single day and be totally satisfied.

Fruit in El Salvador has been an adventure in itself. I always think of people who live in regions of the world like here and Colombia and wonder to myself: if they have the chance to come to the U.S., they must really feel sorry for us and how pathetic our fruit is. I still remember our guide in Guatape, Colombia, and how he said he’d been to the U.S. and found what we call “orange juice” absolutely atrocious.

Kerala (Mallu) food: a party for all senses

Today, we went over to Chris’s mom’s cousin’s building a few blocks away for a family gathering, with relatives coming together from New York, Philadelphia, Australia, and India. Given our group was a bit larger, they rented the common space lounge of their condo building for the lunch. As soon as we arrived, it was clear the dinner table was laid out for a feast, with bright green, yellow, and orange table settings, plates, and napkins. Place mats were also laid out on three other tables where the eventual food would be placed for buffet-style serving. Although we showed up close to 1 when the event was meant to start at 12:30, they told us that the Kerala (Mallu) Indian caterers in New Jersey were supposed to deliver the food by 11am. So, needless to say, they were running quite a bit late.

But when the food eventually did arrive, it was clear it was all worth the wait (Chris’s uncle and aunt told us, “Their service is horrendous. They are always, always late and it’s nearly impossible to even place the order. It all has to be paid in cash. But we put up with them because the food is so, so good!”). I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the sheer variety of the foods delivered, but also how intoxicating it all smelled. This is what was served, with my rudimentary knowledge of the names of these actual dishes in Malayalam – 13 in total (!), in addition to the freshly fried pappadams, which were so fragrant that any time someone bit into one near me, I could smell the delicious spiced scent wafting towards me:

Nadan meen curry – Kerala style red fish curry

Kappa Puzhukku – Kerala-style mashed tapioca/cassava (to be eaten with the fish curry)

Kerala style beef cutlets with a side of raw red onions and chilis

Kerala / Malabar style parathas – “rounded” flakiness – the best!

Kerala beef fry Ularthiyathu – with big chunks of meaty coconut strips

Kerala-style chicken curry

Ghee rice with cashews and caramelized onions

Moru curry (Buttermilk/yogurt curry)

Yellow dal

Savory mango yogurt curry

Savory banana curry

Black-eyed pea and green bean thoran

Kerala red rice (AHHH, what a treat outside of Kerala!!)

I thought I had died and gone to food heaven. Every bite was beyond delicious. But because there was so much variety, it was hard to eat more than 2-3 bites of any one dish. It was truly such a treat to have this food in the middle of Manhattan, of all places — and delivered from the Northeast Capital of Indian Food: New Jersey!! But I did leave extra space for the kappa since we don’t ever see it on menus. The beef fry, with its thick, crunchy chunks of coconut, is truly one of my favorite Indian dishes, along with the fish curry — they are very unique flavors and textures. My brain wanted to eat more, but my stomach had to put the savory eating to a stop, especially since for dessert, we had my orange olive oil cake and some semiya payasam, as well, and I needed space for these.

While I was eating this sumptuous meal in the midst of all of Chris’s Mallu relatives, I thought back to the time when I was in Singapore in 2012 for my friend’s wedding. Her husband used to say that South Indian food wasn’t as prevalent in the U.S. “for a reason,” as in, it didn’t taste as good as North Indian food (but anyone knowing history and the demographics of India would know that on average, people from Delhi/the surrounds are far lesser educated than the people of Kerala, the state of India that has the highest literacy rate. So while North Indians were on average poorer and immigrating to western countries to open restaurants and pursue lower level service jobs, Keralites were moving for “knowledge work” careers and on average, not opening restaurants). So when I said I wanted to explore the Indian area of Singapore to try the South Indian food, he had rolled his eyes and said, “All South Indian food is is dosa and idli, which aren’t even that good.”

As I enjoyed every bite of my beef fry, fish curry, and Malabar-style parathas, all I could think was… how could anyone be so wrong and ignorant about how good this food is?!

Sweet Malaysian freebies at closing time

Once upon a time, there were a number of bakeries across New York City that would offer deeply discounted baked goods within 30 minutes to an hour of closing. Manna House Bakery on Mott Street in Chinatown used to offer all pastries and bao at 50% off if you arrived about 30 minutes before their closing time; I only found this out by chance when I popped in one evening many years ago, and the lady behind the counter quoted me half of the amount that I was expecting to owe. The much loved and venerated Balthazar Bakery would offer their elaborate pastries for a discounted amount, and sometimes they even had random grab bags that would have a set (low) price. Eventually, though, all good (and cheap) things come to an end, and both bakeries put a halt to their slashed pre-closing prices.

I was reminded of this last night when I was in the East Village for dinner with a friend. On our way to the subway station, we passed by Lady Wong, one of the best (and rare) fancy bakeries in the city for Malaysian-inspired desserts, including the famous kuih. As we stepped in, we weren’t sure if they were still open, so we asked. The man behind the counter looked up, greeted us and said he would still be open for five more minutes. Then, he smiled and said, “Take it all!” We thought he was just joking given the closing time. So we each chose two items each and paid. As we were about to leave, he looked at us quizzically.

“You don’t want any kuih? I’m serious: if you don’t want it, I will throw it all out! You can take whatever you want, just tell me which ones…. just not the serimukkah because those are my favorite.” He smiled as he said this. He explained that it was highly unusual to have this much leftover at the end of the day; usually, they are almost sold out. But today was a weird day with the grey, cool weather, and they didn’t get as much foot traffic as they normally do. He couldn’t eat all of the remaining kuih, nor would he be selling them the next day. So my friend and I got really excited and told him which ones we’d like. He got them all ready in two separate boxes for each of us.

We thanked him profusely, and being very Asian, he brushed us off. “It’s okay… if you didn’t take them, they’d just be going into the trash bin!” he insisted. As he was boxing these up for us, a group of friends walked in, obviously having read about the place since two of them were explaining to their friends that this spot was “known for Malaysian dessert.” The guy behind the counter, who I *think* is one of the co-owners, told us in a near-whisper, “Don’t say anything, okay?” So in other words, he was going to give us all these freebies, but he definitely had plans to charge these folks!

We walked out with our paid and free sweets. I wasn’t sure what cracked me up more, the fact that he said we could take any of the kuih, *except* the serimukkah since they were his favorites, or that he was happy to give us these freebies, but was planning to charge the other group of people who came in after us!

Cost of eating out in New York City – at least $30 for a basic meal

A friend and I went out to lunch today at a Korean soup spot that I’ve been wanting to try for a few months near Koreatown in Manhattan. It had been getting quite a bit of buzz, as it originally started as a pop-up from Korea, and also because it literally has just two things on the menu: dweji gumtang, which is a pork bone broth rice soup, and kimchi mandoo stuffed with kimchi, pork, and tofu. The gumtang is the main dish; the mandoo is simply an appetizer. There are a few non-alcoholic drinks you can order, as well, and that’s it. The entire restaurant is counter seating around the open kitchen where all the two servers are doing is serving you those two dishes. For two bowls of gumtang and one order of mandoo, with tax and tip, it cost just over $60 for two of us for lunch.

Yesterday, Chris, Pookster, and I had lunch at a nearby dumpling/noodle spot with my cousin and his wife, who were in town for a work conference. We didn’t order anything fancy at all: two orders of dumplings, two orders of noodles, one order of stir-fried rice cakes, one order of dry-fried string beans, and one beef/scallion roll wrap. The total bill, including tax and a 20% added gratuity because we were a party of five or more (yes, toddlers count as a full head), was $170. For four adults and one toddler (I’d like to call her half a person :), that’s $37.77/head. That’s a LOT of money to spend on a casual lunch!

My colleague, who lives in New Jersey, told me that when he and his wife met with friends in the city for dinner the other night, though they each only had one cocktail/glass of wine, their bill was over $200/person. I told him that it didn’t surprise me at all given the cost of eating out now. $30-40/person for lunch seems normal. So why would $200/person for dinner be unheard of? I’m sure their cocktails cost at least $18-24, while their wine was similarly priced, which would then mean their food would probably cost even more. This is the “new normal” cost range when it comes to eating out now, even for seemingly basic food like pork broth soup.

My ma la 麻辣 baby

Earlier in the week, Chris had requested that I make dan dan mian. Well, when one asks, ye shall receive. I got all the different components for the noodles ready. Dan dan noodles have quiet a number of parts to it: a complex sauce (all ingredients I actually had on hand – I was so proud of my pantry / fridge in that moment of checking!) that needs to be mixed, a dry stir-fried minced meat mixture (I used ground turkey from Butcherbox for this), stir fried ya cai (Sichuanese pickled vegetable, which some argue *makes* dan dan mian), a leafy green (like spinach, bok choy, pea shoots, or yu choy), crushed toasted peanuts and scallions, and of course, wheat noodles. Once you have all the ingredients ready, you mix it all together, and voila! Your little meal is ready.

We were conservative giving Kaia the dan dan noodles since we’re always unsure if she will be in the mood for something spicy. So we gave her plain noodles and the minced meat mixture and let her pick at that for a bit. But when she saw the bowl of the sauce, she immediately indicated that she wanted to dunk her plain noodles in the sauce, so we let her. And she ate the noodles, slurped air in to indicate it was spicy, and then as I said, “Ma la? Ma la!”, she repeated “ma la (麻辣 hot and numbing in Chinese)” multiple times before demanding water. And after a big gulp, she went back to her spicy noodles. She took breaks with plain noodles, and then kept going back and forth between spicy and plain noodles.

Kaia is my ma la 麻辣 baby, always interested in big, bold flavors and spicy heat. She should really be the Solid Starts poster child.

Taro sago dessert soup – a good gateway dessert for littles

For our Lunar New Year lunch on Saturday, I originally wanted to go *all* out and do two desserts: one would be the simple taro sago dessert soup (芋香椰汁西米露/Yù xiāng yē zhī xī mǐ lù), which would be easy to make; the second would be the more challenging tang yuan, or black sesame glutinous rice balls in brown sugar-ginger soup. After having several of my dough balls get completely crumply and destroyed a few nights ago (I hadn’t made this in ages, so I was out of practice with how to properly roll the glutinous rice flour dough), I decided to forgo the tang yuan finicky mess and go with the taro sago dessert soup, which even a young child could make.

Taro sago dessert soup was one of my favorite Chinese desserts growing up. When we used to have big family meals with my cousins, aunt, uncle, and grandma, the banquet-style table would always be filled with endless and sumptuous seafood, meat, and vegetable dishes. Looking back, I realize that I took it all for granted, as we never have meals with this much variety now at all. At the end of the huge meal, there was usually a complimentary dessert soup, usually in the form of red bean. While I did enjoy sweet red bean soup growing up, it was not my favorite. I was always pleasantly surprised when the massive bowl of dessert soup would come out, and the waiter would ladle out steaming hot bowls of taro sago soup. It was always this pale purple color with small chunks of taro and tiny translucent tapioca balls bobbing up and down. The soup had a hint of coconut milk flavor and just enough sweetness to let you know this was certainly dessert. I never realized then how easy it was to make this soup at home with just a handful of ingredients.

So I made it for Saturday, and it was very well received; several guests had a second helping. Yet we still have quite a bit left over since the recipe made a very, very large batch. So while eating it tonight, I offered Kaia some. She initially rejected it, but gradually grew envious the more she saw me spoon it into my mouth. So she came closer and asked to “try some.” I gave her a small spoonful; she ate some and made a face, ran away, then tentatively came back to me to ask for “more?” She proceeded to have about a quarter of my small bowl of taro sago soup and clearly loved it, constantly repeating “taro yummy, taro yummy.”

I thought more about (East) Asian desserts, and I also thought about Chris (and many people who think like him) and criticize them, saying that East Asian countries like China and Japan don’t know how to do dessert well, and “that’s why they put shit like red bean” in their desserts. But I actually think this thought is flawed. East Asians thought about putting legumes, seeds, and roots like red bean, black sesame, and taro in desserts; from a health perspective, this should be embraced, because you’re not only having a sweet and indulgent treat, but combining it with something that will nourish your body. Who is to say that something like sesame or beans should be used in only savory applications? Why put arbitrary limits on different types of raw ingredients? With these raw ingredients, East Asians pair them with just enough sweetness so that your teeth don’t ache after, but your belly still gets a sweet hit. And that’s actually a great way to introduce sweets to young children like Kaia, especially as we want to limit their sugar intake but still not feel like they’re being left out of sweet treats. Kaia can be indulged with a dessert with a small amount of sugar, yet still have something healthful that her parents can feel good about. And that all sounds good to me.

Lunar New Year Day 2024 in Flushing

The three of us went to Flushing on Saturday, which marked Lunar New Year Day 2024, or year of the dragon. When we got off the train and up to the street level, it was in the middle of a huge Lunar New Year parade, complete with fire crackers and endless music and manual fire crackers being set off. We ended up going to Jiang Nan for our main meal, where we enjoyed a fancy Peking duck with beautiful and delicate house-made pancakes, as well as an accompanying duck, tofu, and vegetable soup made with the bones of our duck. It was likely one of the most delicious and rich broths we’d ever tasted. Even Pookster gobbled up this soup and kept asking for seconds and thirds. She even gnawed the meat off of several duck leg bones.

What was also notable about our visit to Flushing was that we stumbled upon a very discreet and easy-to-overlook Taiwanese bakery. I poked my head in to see what was there, and unfortunately, a lot of seemingly popular items had already sold out since it was mid-afternoon. But I did pick up a loaf of white bread, a Taiwanese-style taro bao (it doesn’t look like the ones I usually get!), and two Taiwanese style pineapple cakes. All of the things we got were incredible: the taro bao was extremely crunchy with just the right amount of sweetness on the outside. The taro filling was light and also not too sweet, but very creamy. And the pineapple cakes were a stunner: super flaky and buttery on the outside, with a thick, chunky pineapple filling on the inside that was jammy with just the right amount of sweetness. This was as close to the incredible pineapple cakes we got while in Taiwan. I was obsessed. I still cannot believe it’s taken me this long to find this place while in New York! Taiwanese bakeries are a rarity here; I hope this place never closes!