Kat’s Tips for the Richmond Night Market (by the casino)

May 17th, 2014, 1:57 am PDT by Kat

Recently many people have been asking about the Richmond Night Market (by the casino), so I thought I would put together a list of tips.

1. When planning what to wear to the Night Market, keep in mind that a) while there are a few tables,ย  you will likely have to eat while standing up withoutย  a table, and b) there are a LOT of people walking around with food in a VERY crowded space. I have stained a few shirts by dribbling sauce on myself or getting splattered on by other people. So, darker clothing is better.

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I also always bring a hoodie or a sweater. By the time you’re done eating dinner, wander around the non-food booths (to digest dinner), then go back for dessert, it’s dark and starts to get cold.

2. Bring water. While there are places to buy drinks at the Night Market, most of them sell bubble tea or other sweet drinks. I didn’t notice water for sale (but I probably just missed it). Every summer we replace our “in case of earthquake water supply”, and use the old water throughout the Night Market season. (If you don’t have an “in case of earthquake water supply” stop reading this and go out and buy some now. I lived through an earthquake, and our emergency water was all we had to drink for 3-4 days. Seriously, go buy emergency water now!)

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3. Bring enough cash. All of the food and many of the non-food booths are cash only, and the ATM at the Night Market charges an insanely high fee.

4. Bring eating utensils. Ever wonder what to do with the extra disposable chop sticks that you get from take-out sushi? Bring them to the Night Market! Many places don’t give you proper utensils. They give you a bamboo skewer (two if you’re lucky, but it’s still impossible to use them like chop sticks).

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Try eating squid, a dumpling or a pretzel ball with one bamboo skewer – it’s do-able, but it’s not pretty and often leads to the stains that I mentioned above.

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5. Be prepared for crowds. Tonight (opening night) the line snaked all of the way around the Night Market parking lot and reached the casino parking lot. It was the longest I’ve ever seen it. The crowds are heaviest in the food area where you can be packed in like sardines. I do not recommend trying to push strollers or take dogs through the crowded food areas. Neither does well in the crowd. If you need to bring a stroller, (please, for the love of everyone’s ankles) park it in one of the eating areas and take turns going to get food. Alternatively, I would recommend going to the Night Market by Home Depot/IKEA instead. Their aisles are a lot wider, and there are fewer people.

6. If you plan to go multiple times throughout the season and/or if you have a large group (5 or more people), buy a Zoom Pass. Admission is regularly $2.25 for adults. The zoom passes are $10 for 7 entrances or $20 for 15 entrances. You can use the pass for multiple people at the same time or for multiple visits, and there is a separate Zoom Pass entrance to the right of the ticket booths where there is never a line. The best part is that you generally don’t even have to wait in line to buy a Zoom Pass. There are usually Night Market personnel walking around the ticket booth area (they wear Night Market shirts) who sell the Zoom Passes and direct you to the Zoom Pass entrance.

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7. Parking at this Night Market is free, but getting into the parking lot can take a while. We often take the skytrain to Bridgeport and walk in (~5 minutes).

8. Go with an empty stomach and enjoy filling it up!

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Markets, Monkeys and Man-Clothes

January 29th, 2013, 3:00 am PDT by Kat

For our first day in Bangkok we took the Thai Fishing Village Tour with “Tour with Tong”. The tour started out at the Mae Klong railway market outside of Bangkok. The awnings overhang the tracks, and the products being sold are placed right along the tracks. Many of the stalls have their produce on wheeled carts. The awnings and the carts are moved back when the train comes through 8 times a day. Unfortunately, the train was running late, so we decided not to wait for it.

Our next stop was the Damnernsaduak Floating Market, where vendors in boats sell produce, snacks, and cooked, hot food from canal boats to (mostly) tourists who are either also in canal boats or are walking along the sides of the canal. Here I was able to do something I’ve always wanted to do – eat noodles that have been cooked and sold out of a small boat while I am also sitting in a small boat. We were also able to get away from the crowded market area and see the more peaceful part of the canal system that runs through a fruit farming village.

Our final stop was a Thai fishing village. Here we boarded another boat, which took us into a mangrove forest along the banks of the Gulf of Thailand. We got to feed a troupe of monkeys that live in the mangroves. When we exhausted our huge stock of bananas, we left the monkeys behind and headed out into the Gulf where local fishermen have set up oyster and cockle farms. For lunch we had a seafood feast in a fisherman’s bamboo stilt house in the midst of the cockle farms that stretched as far as the eye could see. This was definitely the best part of the tour, and we would definitely recommend this tour!

On our way back to our hotel, our tour guide, Mook, recommended a tailor where Greg could get a suit made. One fitting and 48-hours later, Greg’s suit, shirt, ties and sport jacket were delivered to our hotel room!

Kat’s bite count: 3

Elephant kisses and Garra fish nibbles

January 24th, 2013, 7:34 am PDT by Kat

We’ve spent two fun-filled days in Chiang Mai so far.

Yesterday, we took a full-day cooking class at Siam Rice cooking school. They brought us to the market where we were shown how coconut cream and coconut milk are made. We were also introduced to some of the local produce like tiny eggplants, Thai holy basil and fresh tumeric. At the market, we bought some of the local Northern Thai sausages and chicharron (fried pork rinds). mmmmm…. pork! Afterwards, we spent the day cooking up a storm and eating all of our tasty dishes.

Today, we took a half-day tour up to Chiang Dao to see the elephants. We got to feed them and got elephant hugs and kisses. There was a lot more slobber and a lot more suction than either of us expected! As we were leaving, Greg spotted a sign that said “Elephant Nursery”. I’m glad he did because we detoured and got to feed a 16-month-old baby elephant and her mother and to see a 10-month-old baby elephant! ๐Ÿ™‚ Our tour then took us to Tiger Kingdom, where we posed for pictures with “big” and “small” tigers. Finally, our tour guide brought us to “the” Khao Soi restaurant in Chiang Mai. There was a long wait, but it was totally worth it (and it only cost us $1 a bowl!).

Kat’s bug bite count: 2

Mega-Money Monte Carlo and Nice Nice

September 13th, 2010, 2:30 pm PDT by Kat

Yesterday we started the cruise portion of our trip. It was pretty much a relaxation day as we had a leisurely morning and then made our way to the docks in the early afternoon. Once on board, we realized that Norwegian’s “freestyle cruising” (i.e., no set times for meals) seems to suit us just fine. We pretty much spent the rest of the day either eating (bโ€Žig surprise), reading or exploring the ship.

Today was our first port day, and it pretty much started off as moneyed as can be: we docked amongst mega-yachts on the floating pier in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Monte Carlo was pretty much as we imagined it – everywhere you turned there were either yachts, mega-yachts, Porsches, Lambourginis, Ferraris or Rolls Royces! And then there was little ol’ us, in our flip flops and birks! ๐Ÿ™‚ Since we do not, and will likely never, have enough $$ to actually DO anything in Monte Carlo, we did the one cool free thing we could think of – walk the Monte Carlo F1 circuit. The circuit snakes along the waterfront, around the casino (which we walked into but didn’t play – $5 minimum on the slots!), and underneath the Grace Kelly Theater and then back to the waterfront.

After our leisurely stroll, we headed back to the ship to join our first shore excursion – a bus trip into Nice, France. While on the bus we drove by the villas of Elton John, Diana Ross, Bono, the late Yves Saint Laurent (which had a LONG escalator down to the water), and Greta Garbo. This villa was where Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier. We also drove along the same stretch of road that claimed the life of Grace Kelly on the actual anniversary of her death. Upon arriving in Nice, we then changed modes of transportation to what Greg called “the most embarrassing mode of transportation ever” – a little white tourist train, complete with build-in audio headsets! We toured Vieux Nice on the train and even saw where Angelica used to eat gelato when she was here! ๐Ÿ™‚

Tomorrow we will be visiting Florence, Italy, where I’m hoping to find a trippai, a street vendor selling tripe! ๐Ÿ™‚

Edit from Greg: the full list of impressive cars I remember seeing: a Ferrari 599, two Tesla Roadsters, Porsche 356 (from about 1960), Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead, Lamborghini Giardo (I think), Austin Martin DB9, Ferrari 430, and various AMG Mercedes and Porches. At one point, a Mazda RX-8 went by and I thought “well, that’s a little cheap, isn’t it?”

Sunny Sussex by the Sea to Boisterous Barcelona

September 11th, 2010, 12:54 pm PDT by Kat

My conference went well. It was quite weird giving a bird talk to a room full of people who study plants, but I think it went as well as could be expected. The point of my talk was to show the plant researchers using controlled environments (growth chambers, greenhouses) what kinds of other research can be done using the same chambers. The highlight of the 2-day conference was a visit to the Millenium Seed Bank and Kew Botanical Gardens at Wakehurst Place. The seed bank was amazing and quite beautiful. They were one of the first Millenium projects approved for funding. At present they are processing/storing the seeds of 10% of the world’s plant varieties. They dry and freeze the seeds and periodically test them to ensure that they are still viable. By 2020 they hope to have 25% of the world’s plant varieties stored there. It’s an important thing to do, and I’m glad someone is doing it. The botanical gardens were gorgeous too. We got a behind the scenes tour, which included the back growing plots and greenhouses. I was also able to see a Chinese tree that has only flowered twice while at the gardens – the first time was 27 years after it was planted at the gardens, and the second was this year. Apparently, the first time it flowered, the head gardener was on vacation, and he missed it! When we left “sunny Sussex by the sea” it was chilly and misty.

In contrast, the last three days we’ve spent in Barcelona have been sunny and hot. We’ve eaten our way around the city and have seen many of its breath-taking sights. We had fruit at Mercat de la Boqueria (food market), lunched in the Barri Gotic near the Catedral de Barcelona, had tapas just off of La Rambla (Taller de Tapas is very good!), saw the monument to Christopher Columbus (who happens to be pointing the wrong way if he’s supposed to be pointing towards the New World), had paella on the Barceloneta beach, and had traditional Catalan food. In between meals we found time to visit Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrada Familia and the Olympic stadiums and arenas on Monjuic. So yes, we’re definitely enjoying the food and the sights here in Barcelona. We’re saving La Ribera neighborhood, which has a Catalan gothic church and the first covered food market in Barcelona, for our last day in Europe.

It’s an interesting comparison between London and Barcelona. In London, we didn’t find the food all that exciting (although I did enjoy the pies and pasties), but then again, we really didn’t see any British people eat (just drink). In Barcelona the food is amazing, and everywhere you look people are eating (and drinking) at all times of the day.

Tomorrow we board the Norwegian Jade for our Mediterranean cruise. Looking forward to crepes in Nice, tripe in Florence (at least I am, not sure about Greg) and pizza in Naples!

Future epic culinary journeys?

June 3rd, 2010, 11:46 pm PDT by Kat

Now that me fried rice journey has ended, I find myself contemplating the next epic food journey. Having gone through one, I think I can handle another. The key is to only ask individual people, namely either my Aunt Daisy or my mom, very specific questions about whatever dish I am trying to make. I haven’t decided which dish will be next, but I thought I should write them down somewhere while they are fresh in my mind. So, here are some of the family dishes that I may want to try to make, and the person that I think knows how to make them:

My mom:
Pancit bihon, which is a Filipino rice noodle dish
Pancit sotanghon , which is more soupy than pancit bihon (I think) and made with a different type of noodle
Lumpia Shanghai (fried spring roll with meat in it)

My Ama:
Chow mein (I made this once with my Aunt Belen, so I think I can make it again, but I’m not totally sure)
Kiam pung (translation: salty rice), which is a form of fried rice that is brown (this one has soy sauce for sure!), and contains meat and sometimes hard-boiled eggs, and is flavored with spices like star anise and whole peppercorns. My Ama may have used adobo sauce from pork or chicken adobo to flavor the sauce. I think my Ama’s kiam pung is on the dry side compared to other people’s dishes (based on a Google image search of kiam pung). Also, it does not contain peanuts.
Fried meatballs

My Aunt Daisy:
Lumpia prito (fried vegetable spring rolls). She learned how to make these from my Ama. Learning from my aunt will be more straightforward. The only down-side of this dish is that it is deep fried. That’s a lot of work, and I’m not sure I’d ever really make it on my own because of that.

My Aunt Edna:
Kiam beh (translation: salty rice, but in congee-form). I loved my Ama’s kiam beh but I really don’t think I’d ever be able to learn that recipe from her. Luckily, my Aunt Edna has been making kiam beh for my Ama, and I had some last night. It’s close enough to my Ama’s (my mom’s version was good, but never quite the same), so I’m going to ask her to teach me how to make it. The linked picture of it has a recipe from a guy in Toronto. Maybe I’ll try his version and see if it tastes like my Ama’s! ๐Ÿ™‚

The family in general:
Lumpia sariwa (fresh spring rolls). LOTS of work goes into making these. It’s more of a whole-family effort. I would just like to know the ratios of ingredients. I think that’s all I can really hope for.

That’s my list so far. Am I crazy for wanting to start what could be another soul-crushing experience?

How fried rice drove me insane (Part 3)

June 1st, 2010, 9:55 pm PDT by Kat

Following Saturday’s soul-crushing family conversation about my Ama’s fried rice, during which I was informed of additonal, never-before-mentioned fried rice ingredients and cooking techniques, I have to say that I was at my wit’s end. There may have been a few instances that I sat in a ball and ricked back and forth. However, Sunday was a new day, and I was determined to take another shot at the rice on Tuesday, for Pam’s dinner night. This way I would have another set of taste buds to either confirm or reject my latest attempt.

Sunday almost killed me. We decided to start at the T&T on 1st and Renfrew (or is it Rupert – anyways, one of the R-streets). After circling both the bottom and top parking lots a couple of times without any parking luck, we decided to try somewhere else. The nearby Superstore was our next stop. Ample parking, but we couldn’t find the Wing Wing Chinese sausage anywhere. After asking a few employees, we found other Chinese sausage, but no Wing Wing. What we failed to take into account was that Wing Wing sausage was on sale last weekend, so of course there wasn’t any left! I was starting to get a little nervous. I’ll admit that conspiracy theories involving my family, The Great Canadian Superstore corporation, and the company that owns T&T were going through my head. I believe at one point I may have accused Greg of being in on it too. He pointed out that he voluntarily went to Superstore on a Sunday with me to buy the sausage. I thought that was a little suspicious, but I let it go with a warning that I was watching him. We then went to Metrotown which had both a Superstore and a T&T – ended up buying the Wing Wings at T&T (my family would be appalled that I didn’t save the 10 cents at Superstore, but I didn’t think I could get Greg to go into 2 Superstores on a Sunday). Sausages: check!

To deal with the meat drippings, I marinaded a couple pieces of chicken on Sunday night. Thank goodness I knew my Ama’s marinade recipe – again, not so much a recipe, more like mix stuff together and keep tasting it until it tastes right. Meat marinading: check!

On Monday night I roasted the chicken and collected the drippings. The meat doesn’t actually go into the fried rice – just the drippings! Anyone need two cooked chicken breasts for anything? Meat drippings: check!

Since you need cold cooked rice to make the fried rice, I also cooked the rice on Monday night so that it would have a chance to sit in the fridge for Tuesday night’s main event. Rice cooked and cooled: check.

So today was the big day. I had all of the ingredients (at least all of the ingredients that my family has chosen to tell me about). I have to admit I was a little scared to start cooking. I was seriously going to lose it if this rice tasted nothing like my Ama’s. I would be okay if it wasn’t perfect – I was just hoping to get closer than I had before. Yes, not such a lofty goal, but keep in mind, I’ve been doing this for almost 6 years – no point in getting my hopes up too high. So I started with the sausages in a large pan. I needed to get them to release their oil so that I would have oil to cook the eggs and fry the rice. They were cooking, but they weren’t giving up any oil. I was starting to panic. Pam called my Ama’s house and we were told to prick the sausage. So I made them into pincushions. After a while there was enough oil to barely cover the pan (it was a big pan though), so we pulled the sausage and I poured out the oil, leaving enough to scramble the eggs. I had a good feeling about the dish when I smelled the reserved sausage oil, and it instantly reminded me of my Ama’s kitchen. As Pam sliced the sausage and cut up the eggs, I added the rest of the oil back into the pan and added the rice. It didn’t seem like enough oil to fry the rice, but I wasn’t going to give up hope. We added the cut-up sausage and egg back into the pan, seasoned with only a little bit of salt (I think the sausage oil was pretty salty) and only 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar and…

… after almost 6 years, I, with the help of Pam and Greg, had finally done it. I made my Ama’s fried rice! The dish that has eluded me for so many years has finally been conquered. I have to admit, I did do a little dance of joy.

In the end, the ingredient that I was missing was not something you could actually see. The pivotal ingredient was the oil from the Wing Wing Chinese sausage! Aunt Daisy said that if you use a different brand it doesn’t taste the same. I don’t know whether I believe that or not, but I’m not going to go out of my way to try it. My dislike of Chinese sausage had made it previously impossible for me to make her fried rice! I tried two slices of the sausage again today – *blech* I still don’t like it. So now whenever I make my Ama’s fried rice, Pam will be receiving cooked Chinese sausages.

As for the meat drippings, I figured my Ama probably used them when she didn’t have any sausage on hand, and therefore didn’t have any sausage oil. I made a second batch of rice with vegetable oil, some of the chicken drippings, rice, egg, salt and sugar. It tasted okay, but it wasn’t THE rice. It was actually closer in flavor to my fried rice and my Ama’s.

We decided that we’re going to make Ama’s fried rice again next week for dinner night. I will also make black (seaweed) soup to go with it, which was one of Ama’s staple soups. Pam and I are very excited. We called my Ama’s house to share the good news. My Aunt Daisy was happy and my Ama was too – especially when I said that I would go over and make some for her.

And so my epic fried rice journey has come to an end. I’m annoyed that it took this long, but in a way it’s probably for the best. I now fully appreciate this fried rice and will be extremely happy every time I make it. ๐Ÿ™‚

How fried rice drove me insane (Part 2)

May 30th, 2010, 11:20 am PDT by Kat

My mom is in town, so Greg and I went to have dinner at my Ama’s house. Inevitably the conversation turned to food, which led me to ask about my Ama’s fried rice for the 100th time. This time there were more people around, and everyone had an opinion about what went into Ama’s fried rice and how it was prepared.

Me: My fried rice still doesn’t taste like Ama’s even though I added sugar.
Aunt X: Oh yeah, of course you have to add sugar!
Aunt Y: Ama adds a little bit of sugar to everything. Didn’t you know that?
Me: *eye twitch* No, nobody tells me these things!!!
Aunt Y: Did you scramble the eggs? Ama scambles eggs and adds them in.
Aunt Z: No she adds them in raw and then they cook with the rice.
Me: She’s done both. I know. I’ve asked and tried them both. I’m okay with the egg. I need to know what else I’m doing wrong.
Pam: When we added sugar it tasted more like Ama’s rice, but the flavor faded.
Aunt Y: Oh, it’s garlic! Did you add garlic?
Me: I used garlic powder. Did Ama use fresh garlic?
Aunt Y: Yes! Ama uses fresh garlic in everything. If you use fresh garlic the flavor won’t fade.
Me: Okay, I will use fresh garlic. (see phone conversation below)
Aunt X: It will taste good if you add adobo sauce.
Me: NO! Ama’s rice is very pale. There’s no adobo sauce!
Aunt X: But it would taste good with adobo sauce!
Me: *eye twitches*
My mom: When I make fried rice…
Me: NO! I know how to make your fried rice! My fried rice IS your fried rice! I want to make AMA’s fried rice!
My mom: I know how Ama makes her fried rice. I’ve cooked with her before.
Me: Then why does your fried rice taste totally different?
My mom: Mine is the simpler version.
Me: Okay, how does she make it?
My mom and aunts combined: You cook the sausage. Set it aside. Then you can use that oil from the sausage to scramble the egg. The you chop that up and add the garlic and rice. Then salt and soy sauce and sugar, and you add the sausage back.
Me: You’re sure there’s soy sauce? Ama’s rice was very, very pale!!
Them (without my Aunt Daisy, who had left the room): Yes, yes there’s soy sauce. It’s light soy sauce.
Me: I’ve tried that – even the smallest dash turned it very, very pale brown. Ama’s rice was never brownish. *eye twitch*
Them (without my Aunt Daisy): Yes! Yes! There’s soy sauce! (see phone conversation below)
Me: That’s it, then, that’s all of the ingredients. Nothing else?!?!
Them (without my Aunt Daisy): Yes, that’s it. It’s so easy.
Me: *eye twitch*

So by then I was willing to try it again. Fresh garlic and the oil from the sausages may be the key, I thought. I was still not convinced about the soy sauce. There was no freaking way that there was soy in there – the color would be all wrong.

Later that night, I was saying goodbye to my Ama:

Me: Bye Ama.
My Aunt Daisy: Wait, you know the liquid that comes off meat when you roast it? We collect that, skim off the fat, and then freeze it. Ama puts a bit of that in.
Me: INTO THE FRIED RICE?! *eye twitches*
My Aunt Daisy: Yes. That might be the flavor you’re missing. You know, the stuff you make gravy from.
Pam (who had just walked into the room): What gravy?
Me: *eye twitch* Ama adds roasted meat drippings – you know, the stuff you make gravy from.
Pam: TO FRIED RICE?!
Me: YES! *eye twitches*
Pam: Crap, we don’t have that!

The whole time my Ama is sitting there smiling all cute and nodding her head yes.

The drippings from roasted meats.ย  They may or may not be an essential ingredient of my Ama’s fried rice. I say may or may not because sometimes she puts it in, and sometimes she doesn’t. *eye twitch* Apparently my family does not want me to learn how to make this damned fried rice. After 5 years of being assured “yes you have all of the ingredients”, a couple of months ago I was told there was a little bit of sugar. Then from the above conversations that there is also fresh garlic. And now meat drippings!?! The problem: too many people think they know what is in the rice, and they don’t.

The entire way home, in between eye twitches, I must have been muttering “garlic”, “sugar”, “chicken juice?!” because Greg was laughing the entire drive home. Surely, this must be the end to the story, right? If you think that, you don’t know my family.

When I got home, I called my Ama’s house to ask what brand of Chinese sausage they buy (it’s Wing Wing). I’m not taking any chances this time. I have to roast a chicken to make this right – I’m not buying the wrong kind of sausage and have that be the problem!

Aunt Daisy (who had left the room when others said that my Ama used soy sauce and fresh garlic): You know, Ama never used garlic in her fried rice.
Me: Are you sure?!?! *eye twitch*
A. Daisy: Yes, the last few years that she made it, I was the one helping her make the fried rice.
Me: Okay, so no garlic at all?
A. Daisy: No garlic at all. But she did marinade the meat with garlic before she roasted it. You know the marinage recipe, right?
Me: YES! I do know the marinade recipe! She only has one, right?
A. Daisy: Yes, there’s only one marinade. Oh, and she never used soy sauce in her fried rice.
Me: YES! I knew it! Are you totally sure?
A. Daisy: Yes, there was never soy sauce.
Me: Okay, how much of the drippings? (for reference, my Ama often cooked for 10+ people daily, making enough food to have an additional leftover meal – for all 10 people!)
A. Daisy: I don’t know, a bit.
Me: *eye twitch* Okay, that’s fine. I’ll figure it out. So if I cook the sausage, use the sausage oil to scramble the eggs, chop up the eggs in the pan and then add the rice, “a bit” of the meat drippings, salt and sugar, and no soy sauce or garlic, I should get Ama’s fried rice?! *eye twitch* *eye twitch* *eye twitch*
A. Daisy: Maybe…

So today I have chicken defrosting in my fridge. I have to marinade it overnight in THE marinade. Tomorrow I will roast the chicken and collect the drippings and skim off the fat. I also have to go out and buy the sausage today (My Aunt Daisy phoned me back 30 minutes after the above phone conversation to say that they were on sale at Superstore this week for $3 something. My entire family knows all of the weekly grocery sale prices every single week, but they have no clue what goes into fried rice!!! *eye twitch*) On Tuesday Pam, Greg and I will try this again. Seriously, in the fall it’ll be 6 years. 6 years!!! *eye twitch*

The saga continues… *eye twitch* *eye twitch* *eye twitch* *eye twitch*

How fried rice drove me insane (Part 1)

May 29th, 2010, 10:32 pm PDT by Kat

For the last ~5+ years I have been attempting to make fried rice. Not just any fried rice though, my Ama’s fried rice. I have wonderful memories of visiting Vancouver in the summer and for Christmas and having my Ama’s fried rice for dinner, usually with an accompanying soup of some sort. The combination of my Ama’s fried rice and black (seaweed) soup would be one of my top picks for a “last meal”. My Ama is in a wheelchair now and doesn’t cook anymore. So, if I ever want to have this dish again, I figured I should learn how to make it. If you look at the fried rice, it looks pretty plain: slightly yellow rice, often with (but not always) thin slices of Chinese sausage. “How hard could it be?” I thought. 5 years later I am no closer to the correct recipe than I was when I started, and I now have the urge to kill my entire family.

To really understand my pain, we have to go back to the beginning of my epic rice journey. I started out making fried rice the way my mom makes it with oil, rice. egg, garlic powder and mixed frozen vegetables, and sometimes shrimp. My mom didn’t use the Chinese sausage because I don’t actually like it. When I took out the vegetables, it still didn’t taste the same as Ama’s rice (when there wasn’t any sausage in it). I figured I’d just ask my Ama, and she’d tell me how she made the rice, and all would be yummy. I didn’t asking her in the beginning because in the past she always said that she didn’t measure anything – she just cooked, so she couldn’t tell me how much of anything she put in. Fine. Whatever, just tell me WHAT is in it, and I can play around with it. At this point every family member pipes in with totally random things that my Ama may or may not have ever used in her fried rice at one point or another: egg, Chinese sausage, shrimp, pork, adobo sauce, soy sauce, salt, etc. etc. the list goes on. I tried to clarify that I just wanted the ingredients for her simple fried rice: the yellow rice with or without sausage – that’s it. It was like yelling into the wind. “You need shrimp!” “She used light soy sauce.” “She never used soy sauce, she only used salt.”

So, I went away and tried again on my own with no more knowledge that I had before. But whatever, I persevered. I learned to ask specific questions:

Me: Ama, did you use MSG, salt or soy sauce?
Ama: Yes.
Me: All three together?
Ama: No.
*silence*
Me: *deep breath* Which one?
Ama: I used to use MSG, but that was a long time ago.
Me: So recently did you use salt or soy sauce or both?
Ama: Yes.
Me: You used both together?
Ama: Yes.
Me: [thinking we’re making progress] Okay, but how is it that your rice is really pale yellow? If I used soy sauce, my rice turns brown-ish.
Ama: I used light soy sauce.
Me: So did I. How much did you use?
Ama: *smiles*

I don’t think she used soy sauce. There’s no freaking way. Even the slightest dash of light soy sauce turns the rice a light brown. Damn you old woman!

Me: Okay, how about the egg.
Aunt X: She scrambles eggs and then cuts them up into small pieces and adds those to the rice.
Aunt Y: She adds raw egg to the rice and it cooks as the rice was frying.
Aunt X: You should add pork or shrimp. Do you have shrimp?
Aunt Z: Or adobo sauce! It tastes good with adobo sauce!
Me: No! I’m asking about eggs!! Ama, did you cook the egg with the rice or add cooked egg to the rice?
Ama: Yes.
Me: You’ve done both at different times or together?
Ama: I used to put it in raw, but then I started cooking it first and adding cooked egg to the rice.
Aunt X: Yes, adobo sauce is good.
Me: *eye twitches*

Now imagine 1-2 conversations like this every year, and you can begin to feel my pain. Honestly, I’m not sure how we’ve talked about this dish so many times and yet I still can’t seem to make it. It should be so simple: yellowish (from the egg) rice with or without small pieces of egg (yes, I remember both versions), without or without Chinese sausage! What the hell?!

Reality started to sink in a couple of months ago. My cousin Pam was over for dinner, and I was trying to make Ama’s f*$&ing fried rice. We called Ama’s house again, and had a conversation fairly similar to the ones above. After the fried rice was cooked, we called back and told them exactly what we put in.

Ama: You need to put in sugar.
Me and Pam: WHAT?! Sugar?!

My Ama puts a little bit of sugar in a lot of stuff, so I wasn’t that surprised. What was aggravating was the fact that nobody in the last 5 years ever bothered to mention the sugar.

Me and Pam: How much? We started with 3 cups of uncooked rice.
Ama: A little bit.
[For reference, my Ama used to cook for ~10 people every day and still had enough food for a leftover meal for all 10 people! We needed to know how much to scale this down.]
Me and Pam: A tablespoon?
Ama: No! Too much! Just a little.

We put in a pinch. Didn’t taste any different. We put in a tablespoon. It tasted a little more like what we remembered. YAY!

However, I was still doing something wrong because the addition of sugar, while making my fried rice better, didn’t make it my Ama’s fried rice.

The events of Saturday, May 29th, 2010, as they pertain to my epic fried rice journey will be Part 2 of “How fried rice drove me insane.”

Ontario 2009 Day 1

August 2nd, 2009, 5:10 pm PDT by Kat

We’re in Toledo visiting Greg’s parents. I love it here. The air is clean, the view is beautiful, and there’s always fun things to do and family and friends to visit. We’re pretty tired as we red-eyed here, but we should be time shifted by tomorrow. Here’s the view from Greg’s bedroom window. Pretty, eh?

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