One Pot Wonders

Since September I have been working countless of hours with only Saturdays during the week where I can leisurely take a moment away from all things digital to catch up with some friends.  Over a cup of coffee, a food adventure, dining out at the latest trendiest restaurant or what I enjoy most house warming potlucks!  If I was able to afford living independently or share an apartment with an awesome roommate, I would have potlucks every week creating what I call are my specialties, one pot wonders.  To define one pot wonders it requires only one pot of course and all kinds of ingredients and some seasoning.  One pot dishes essentially is universal, with the Spanish Paella, French Cassoulet and the American Macaroni & Cheese.

Hiroko’s Masterpiece

Few weekends ago, I was invited over to my friend Hiroko who is expecting their first baby in December.  Since I had missed their baby shower, her and her husband had reserved a day just for me!   Hiroko had asked me via email whether I liked to have  her special vodka pasta or her curry and I instantly replied curry!  I made a trip from Lower Manhattan to Little Neck, Long Island and was greeted with 7 months pregnant Hiroko but she was still able to swift around the kitchen preparing our lunch like a pro.  Already cooking was the curry and I have to be honest I was really shocked to find out Hiroko uses the bar curry that dissolves with boiling hot water.  What differs in Hiroko’s homemade curry is what she puts in it, with minced pork, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and kobocha squash and slow cooked for a good 3 hours.  Finally served over white rice, it makes an appropriate, hearty, comforting deliciously addicting autumn meal.  Later we took a neighborhood stroll, Hiroko had suggested to visit the local county farm, it was the Queens County Farm Museum.  I was really excited to visit the Queens County Farm Museum for the first time in my adulthood.  I may have visited as a child during elementary school field trips.  The farm had  a variety of farm animals including llamas and donkeys and very well fed healthy pigs and rabbits.  There was a corn maze and surprisingly a beautiful grape vineyard.  It is a Queens County gem!

French Onion Soup

More one pot wonders at this past Saturday,  I reunited with a few former colleagues at a backyard Bushwick, Brooklyn block party with a nice open fire to set the atmosphere.  The host Kristin made amazing apple cider with rum, genius!  It was perfect for the unusually frigid autumn.  In addition to some cream cheese topped pumpkin muffins.  Her neighbors had made a cottage pie which I learned is similar to shepherd’s pie except traditionally with beef instead of lamb.  There were two risotto contributions and a mysterious chickpea, onions, potato, tomato sauce presented on cast iron skillet dish.  There was the savory pie and the sweet tooth pie.  For a cold Saturday evening, a hearty french onion soup in a giant post Halloween pumpkin makes a great center piece for decoration and a great alternative to a regular boring bowl.  It was a fun, friendly, free spirit gathering over good homemade food that makes great autumn harvest memories.

Thank you to both for the invitation!

Events, Homemade

Summer Entertaining the Asian Way

How Summer should be…

Asian cuisine is such a broad topic as Asia is one of the largest seven continents.  It is a popular choice of cuisine and widely eaten by Americans.  Just count how many fast food Chinese restaurants there are in the country or how many Spice Thai there are in Manhattan alone.  Yet I feel Asian cuisine is not given enough credit when it comes to educating readers and viewers.  Food Network even cut out the only Asian cuisine show with Ming Tsai.  In many food publications  Asian-American families are not featured enough or even ever featured in sharing how we celebrate seasonal gatherings.

If anyone who knows how to entertain on a hot summer day in July is my Uncle Tim.  His barbques are more than your average burgers and hot dogs but to recognize our American-ess there is pre-brought burgers from Bubba’s and Nathan’s beef frank hot dogs, in which I am not too wild about.  Nonetheless Uncle Tim emphasizes our Chinese heritage and throws in plenty of Asian flavors into his grill.  Uncle Tim is a successful entrepreneur in the restaurant business and has multiple restaurants in the Tri-state area.  If you happen to be in town, stop by at his first born, House of Yeung in Flemington, NJ, the white rice is delicious as it is glazed in vegetable oil.  His family gatherings starts from the minute you enter his house in suburban Flemington, New Jersey.  It starts off with cocktail hour,  with chilled Corona and lime.  More than ordinary hors d’eouvres there are dishes of home cooked fried rice, chow fun, store brought sushi, salad and corn on the cob.  The amount of food feels like it was the actual party when the party really just had started.  Sunset came along and the fire on the grill heated.  Other than burgers and hot dogs,  if any proteins Chinese loves is seafood!  There was grilled tilapia, and what really stood out for the evening was Uncle Tim’s marinated coconut curry shrimps with green peppers and onions, delicious!

From suburban Flemington, New Jersey to the metropolis New York City.  Aunt Yi Mei hosts the most extravagant summer gatherings.  The location is spectacular with Battery Park and Hudson River as the playground, there are plenty of sports activities to do and much  needed to burn off all the calories gained.  Aunt Yi Mei was a former head chef in a Long Island Chinese restaurant and is best known for her marinated cuttlefish.  For the gathering she used Taipan Bakery as a caterer.  Taipan Bakery is better known for their baked goods and cakes.  As of the catering it is Asian fusion with enormous portions of fried rice, beef bolognese pasta, fingered size sandwiches, ham wrapped asparagus, corn in mayonnaise, sushi, and fruit tarts.  In addition, Aunt Yi Mei prepared a few home cooked dishes this included surf and turf ( Tbone steak and lobsters) and shrimps.  She always out does it.

The Asian culture is one of the most family oriented and it is important to continue that tradition regardless how time consumed our society has become with all things plugged habits. Summer is probably my least favorite season of the year with the sticky, humidity and hot weather but cook something refreshing and gather family and/ or friends and you’ll be in good company in life.


“Do you speak Food?”

January of 2010 thus far has been devastating with 10 days now since the earthquake in Haiti and tonight being the last airing of Tonight Show with Conan’O Brien.  On a personal level, January thus far has been an uneventful start to the year.  Thankfully, Lunar New Year (February 14th, 2010) will allow us all for a second chance, so double check your resolutions and start implementing them.

Three years ago when I started making a list of things to do for the year, among the things to do on the list for every year was to spend time with my dad to understand him better.  My dad is a retired chef/ owner of  a fast food Chinese restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey since 2004. He has been working 7 days for 12-15 hours per day for the last 15 years and obviously with the time spent at work to support the family, he missed  my siblings and I growing up.  Between my dad and I, I am Chinese / Fujianese born in New York City who listens to UK pop/rock music and worships filmmakers, visual artists and spend over 8 hours on the internet (work + spare time) we obviously have cultural differences and language barrier.  I take pride that I can speak Chinese (cantonese + fujianese) and I am able to communicate through the dialects with my dad but somehow very frequently there is still misunderstanding.

When I became interested in culinary cooking shortly after my dad retired and sold his restaurant, we began to connect through our love for food.  Two weeks ago we watched Iron Chef America the White House challenge on Food Network and last week, I made pizza after my dad subliminally made the request since returning from his trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  It was my second attempt in making a traditional pizza and with a slight help from my dad in kneading the pizza crust, a $10 fresh mozzarella cheese from Whole food, and a bottle of pasta sauce (cheated a bit), with shaved pecorino and parmasean-reggiano, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and to top it off with fresh cut basil, it was a Di Fara Pizzeria inspired and it was successfully delicious!  My dad was all smiles leading to my mom’s comment, she said “You’re dad is a very simple person to please, all you have to do is cook something.”

That’s easy!



Chelsea Market

Everyone who grew up and lived in New York City never had the privilege of going trick-or-treating like the suburban kids did.  Fortunately, my brother was living with my aunt and uncle during his high school days in Flemington, New Jersey and would go trick-or-treating with two of my cousins.  My brother would bring a paper bag  full of candies when he visited during the weekend after Halloween. It will be a paper bag full of Snickers, Twix, 3 Musketeers, Kit Kats, Smarties, and my favorite was suspense in a Halloween decorated goody bag.  This will last my sister and I a year.

Now, the spotlight on Halloween is more than the candy but the pumpkin flavors found in other sweet tooth favorites.  My favorite is the Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced soy with whip cream latte and I have not had the chance to make a stop at Sundaes & Cones but I hear they have Pumpkin flavored ice cream that I am eager to get my hands on.   Pumpkin is a versatile squash and can be used best for soups and more traditionally a pie!   This recipe is good for  2x 10 inches pie. Here is the recipe I used for my pumpkin pie:

Pumpkin Pie

Pie Crust from Bon Appetit November 2009 (page 144)

2 +1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup ( 2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

1/4 cup (or more) ice water


Pumpkin Filling:  To save time from carving, oven baked followed by puree the pumpkin, I cheated by using Libby’s canned already puree pumpkin and it comes with a convenient and decent recipe on the can or found on the website. Happy Halloween!

Homemade, New York City Eats


APRIL 9, 2009

img_1574Rai Rai Ken /// shio ramen

A bowl of ramen and two hours long conversation with friends accompanied with ice cream is more than essential but therapeutic for a mediocre work week.  Jane and I have been i-chatting up a drool fest. in the course of the past two weeks during our boredom at work.  Since Ippudo have been introduced in New York City, this place have been jam-packed and I was curious what the hype is or if it is over hyped.  At 6:30pm, the wait for a table for three: Cynthia, Jane and I, was already insanely going to be one hour.  For Jane’s sake, since she only had a sponge cake for lunch fundamentally “air” -jane, we decided to skipped Ippudo and headed to Rai Rai Ken…another ramen joint.  I was first introduced to Rai Rai Ken by my friend Jesse.  I have never been to Japan but the size of the interior of Rai Rai Ken may be as close to a restaurant in Japan based on what I have seen on travel shows.  The restaurant only seated about 14 people on barstool and over watching non-Japanese but Hispanics preparing your bowl of ramen.  We ordered one of each ramen options available.  Jane ordered the Shoyu Ramen, Cynthia ordered the Miso Ramen, and I ordered the Shio Ramen.  Service was in full speed and in less than ten minutes we were slurping away.  The proportion of the ramen is deceiving with only one sliced of roast pork, one fish cake, one sheet of dried seaweed and  half of a boiled egg and a portion of spinach and bamboo shoots.  It certainly is not overfilling but surely satisfying and enough room for an ice cream at Sundaes and Cones.

img_15801 hazelnut not pictured =(

Sundaes and Cones was a really nice surprise.  I have past by Sundaes and Cones several times before while in St. Marks but never really acknowledged it.  With a wooden bench in the storefront it gives a sense of a very young family and friendly ice cream parlor on any ice cream weather permitted day…for me that is 366 days.  The decor reflected the friendly and patient staff at Sundaes and Cones and majority Asian and hence the exotic selections of Asian flavors such as: wasabi, taro and honey & ginseng.  I do not think I would have the patience in working anywhere with unlimited free sampling but I have to admit and I honestly do not do samplings often when allowed that it was great fun deciding which flavor to select for the ultimate one-scoop.  Cynthia and I spent at least almost 10-15 minutes or longer sampling flavors.  I sampled the taro and the semi-full bucket explains why it is still semi-full.  Cynthia suggested we both tried honey & ginseng but I had misread and misheard it as honey & ginger so I was expecting a spice to hit, instead the flavor still hit but rather unpleasant…almost like a rubber rain boot?  I end up having a full scoop of black sesame seed which is neither of the flavors I had sampled.  I was pretty confident with how black sesame would taste though I have never had black sesame seed in ice cream form,  it seems  a very common Asian ice cream flavor in Asia but practically foreign here in the states.  I wanted to be surprised and I was happily surprise.  It had a very roasted and nutty taste with a very fine sesame creamy texture…I was in heaven.  We each took a sample of each other’s final ice cream choice, Jane with the hazelnut which was nutty as well and rather nice since it tasted pure hazelnut without artificial sweetener and Cynthia’s very bold traditional choice of matcha green tea flavor would certainly be a great pair to a cup of green tea.  Sundaes and Cones is a luxurious treat on a budget and I highly recommend everyone who loves ice cream to make a visit, even my grandma with dentures would love it, I guarantee it.


iLuvPotato & Friends ate at: 

Rai Rai Ken /// 214 E. 10th St., New York, NY 1000

Sundaes and Cones /// 95 E. 10th St., New York, NY 10003 


APRIL 11, 2009

I have  been craving for curry throughout the week and I am tired of the instant Japanese bars of curry in a box and had picked up a bottle of curry powder from a small Thailand/ Indonesian grocery store on Bayard Street, owned by an adorable grandpa.  Perfect day to make curry and of course eat it!