Reflecting on One’s Roots and Looking Ahead

I’ve been in Malaysia for the last couple of days now, and have been stuffing my face with all the local delicacies I could get my hands on. It truly is incredible how good something can taste when people spend their whole lives perfecting a handful of dishes. For example, there is a fried carrot (or turnip) cake vendor who operates in the morning market in my neighborhood. It’s may not have the fancy plating techniques of high-end cuisine, but the depth of flavors found in the dish is incredible – it’s somehow savory, rich, chewy, fluffy, crunchy, spicy, and sweet all at the same time.

 

Other dishes, like the curry noodles, prawn noodles, wantan noodles, and claypot chicken rice featured below, contain remarkable flavors, and are packed full of history, such as the influence of the spice trade on Malaysian cuisine, and the amalgamation of different cultures in order to create such remarkable dishes.

I am also very thankful that I am able to usher in 2019 with my family, with good food, good wine, and lots of laughter. 2018 has been quite a turbulent and exciting year. I was personally touched by several events, which include the results of both the Malaysian general election (showing that democracy is still very much alive, and that patronage politics can be overcome) and the U.S. midterms (showing that the U.S. still celebrates diversity of all kinds), the drawbacks of the information age (and how valuable privacy is), and the #metoo movement, which highlights a large problem that still persists in our society. I also made the decision to strive for better work life balance, better appreciate my friends and family, and focus on finding a purpose I find meaningful that I can work towards. I have accomplished some goals, achieved some successes, and experienced some failures. Nonetheless, I am content with what I have achieved in 2018 (which include, among other things, starting this blog to better reflect on what matters most to me and to write about food!)

Goodbye 2018 – and welcome 2019! I can’t wait to see what you have in store for me.

BtB (Back to Basics) in AirBnB.

Being an internationalย  / non-resident alien (USCIS definition) / resident alien (IRS definition), I’ve always found Thanksgiving to be a wonderful celebration. I think it has something to do with the fact that it celebrates two of my favorite things in life – family and food. Given that my family is a 24 hour flight away, I usually spend Thanksgiving with friends / eating other people’s turkey. However this year, my family decided to jet all the way from across the world from multiple locations to celebrate Thanksgiving with meand take advantage of being close to 5th Avenue during Black Friday.

Of course, it would have been really convenient if they had chosen to actually be in Boston (which is where I live / keep my cooking supplies) during Thanksgiving itself. However, because 5th Avenue > Newbury Street (sorry Boston folks – you know my heart belongs to the big apple), we decided to improvise and make do with whatever utensils our AirBnb could provide us with. Of course, I considered packing a roasting tray, a couple containers of herbs and spices, (my brother actually brought his chef’s knife from Portland, OR), but eventually decided against it. I decided to use simple cooking techniques and seasoning in order to make the ingredients shine.

Basically, I had limited myself to salt, pepper, olive oil, and some paprika (there has to be heat somewhere). First, came the duck. Salt, pepper, olive oil and paprika, and rub it all around the duck. Below is a video of the duck post-marination, being carefully placed on the tray (I eventually had to swap it out for the glass container after the duck fat dripped out of the tray, started to smoke, and triggered the fire alarm in our AirBnb. This went on to happen another 10 times or so).

Besides the duck, there were of course sides. Some vegetables are easier to make than others. When you are limited to only the four ingredients above, I’d recommend asparagus and butternut squash to provide some added color (I wanted Brussels sprouts, but was veto-ed by my family).

Of course, we also had to prepare the stuffing, which had some bread, sausage, carrot, celery, chicken stock. Thank goodness the oven was big enough to hold 4 different items in it at the same time.

Finally, the dessert from Magnolia Bakery (even though I bought this, I still had to bake this in the oven so I think it counts).0aded86b-0776-4bdd-b08c-69de125b498f

Overall, given the limited amount of ingredients / utensils, I’d say we had a very delicious and bountiful Thanksgiving. Another meal well done!