Friday, August 10, 2012

So, here's what you've missed (Part 1)

I neglected this for so long that forgot I had a cooking blog altogether - so I really ought to thank my global readership of two for encouraging me to update this again...
It's been two years, what happened? 

Well. For starters. I graduated. 
True Story.
I left China 
which by the way,is kind of a "duh" reason to stop blogging here. I mean "Cooking Journal of A Vegetarian in Beijing" doesn't really work if you're anywhere else - or so I thought. 

And then.
I pretty much went all over the place. 
A post-graduation self discovery adventure, if you will.
I went home to KL for a few months. Watched my brother get married, gained a sister-in-law.
Did a PR agency stint. 

Weddings are hard work.
During this time, I became single. Became more melodramatic than usual. Kept a contemplative philosophical blog for some time.  

Then, I went off to live in Bogota, Colombia for ten months, learning Spanish, teaching Chinese and English, figuring out life....
2500 meters closer to the stars...but I was mainly in it for the clouds.
I traveled around the country and to its neighbors - Peru, Bolivia up to Mexico. 
A boat tequila and dining experience in Xochimilco
I did Machu Picchu and the Inca Valley, the Amazon, the Caribbean, Teotihuacan.
Trekking more than I would normally choose to....
I had the time of my life - but looking back, my eating habits really went down the toilet. 

Crappy choice of food while traveling – rice, beans, patacon and a nasty salad were the baseline- made me, on more occasions that I would like to admit, accept carbs.

Traveling in male-dominant groups opened up my tolerance for all kinds of crappy food – cheese melted over fried potato sticks,  cheese melted over arepas…and other things I shudder to think back about now. (*shudders)

I still cannot believe I ate these
I drank more than I ate -- Chapinero Porter from the Bogota Beer Company, aguardiente from the streets, guaya from that one bar where there’s always someone passed out at the table, tequila, mescal and wine that came out of juice boxes. 
I learned that one can drink virtually anything out of a juice box.
There is no party like a Colombian party.
Food-wise, I was in fruit heaven but vegetable hell.

Their selection of fruit – my favorite being granadillas, lulo – were incredible enough to impress a girl from the tropics.
I learned that the more mucus-like the fruit looked, the more awesome it was gonna taste.
Vegetable-wise…well, they had good avocados, I’ll give them that.

Weekend brunches at a popular restaurant chain called Crepes and Waffles with a Belgian girl housing an insatiable sweet tooth and brownie cravings finally brought me to reconciliation with my long hated enemy – Chocolate.
These new sugar cravings will be the death of me....
Needless to say….despite the late night salsa and merengue dancing-weight gain was inevitable.

Eventually it dawned on me that as quickly as my conversational Spanish progressed, I was a long way off from reading One Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish or from working a “Real Job” as they say.

I was quite fortunate to be offered a consulting job back in Beijing without really looking.

And back I flew.
Back to KL.
Back to Beijing.
Back to where I started.

And then Life began a new chapter.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Visual Delights: Orange-Scented Almond Biscotti

I am currently home in Kuala Lumpur and was a little kitchen-shy until I made a visit to the supermarket in Bangsar Village and got inspired by all the gorgeous and exotic-ish ingredients available.
My mom loves coffee and biscotti so these are the first things I made:


Recipe modified from JoyofBaking

Orange-Scented Almond and Apricot Biscotti

1/2 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted and chopped coarsely
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped into teeny pieces
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped into teeny pieces
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white/brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Pan roast almonds in a shallow , non-stick skillet over medium heat, stirring every once in awhile until the almond skins begin to slightly crackle and the nuts are fragrant.Remove from heat, cool and chop up coarsely.Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.(I use foil)
3. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest in a big bowl.
4.In a smaller bowl, lightly beat the eggs and extract together.
5. Gradually add the egg mixture into the flour mixture and beat until a sticky dough forms. At this point, I divided them into two separate bowls.Add almonds into one bowl and the apricot/raisin mix into another.
5. My dough was unbelievably sticky and instead of adding more flour, I spooned them into two log-shaped pats on the baking sheet (spacing them by around 3 cm, mine didn't really spread) and refrigerated them for about 30 minutes.
6. Bake logs for around 25 minutes (my oven is super hot)or until firm to touch.
7. Transfer logs to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut log into slices 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick on the diagonal. Arrange evenly on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake another 10 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy.

Also! I got a new camera for graduation because my old Canon one couldn't focus properly anymore, so these are pictures taken with a Fujifilm digital camera, the image quality is not as great as before but I'm getting the hang of it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Visual Delights: Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread


Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
Recipe modified from

3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1-1/2 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup margarine, softened
3/4 cup raisins
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted

1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Let cool until lukewarm.
2. Dissolve yeast in warm water, and set aside until yeast is frothy. Mix in eggs, sugar, butter or margarine, salt, and raisins. Stir in cooled milk. Add the flour gradually to make a firm but sticky dough.
3. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Place in a large, greased, mixing bowl, and turn to grease the surface of the dough. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled.
4. Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle 1/2 inch thick. Moisten dough with 2 tablespoons milk. Mix together 3/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons cinnamon, and sprinkle mixture on top of the moistened dough. Roll up tightly; the roll should be about 3 inches in diameter. Cut into thirds, and tuck under ends.
5. Place loaves into well greased 9 x 5 inch pans. Lightly grease tops of loaves. Let rise again for 2 hours.
6. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 minutes, or until loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when knocked. Remove loaves from pans, and brush with melted butter or margarine. Let cool before slicing.

Notes: Makes 2 loaves. Freezes well.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer Coconut Coffee Popsicles

The summer is hitting it's peak temperatures and the heat waves are getting unbearable.

After weeks of being tempted by frozen-treat-food porn and bookmarking dozens of popsicle recipes, I finally bought some molds off RMB 9.90) and have been freezing all kinds of random liquids ever since.

My thoughts so far:
-Freezing fresh fruit juices is great, even better if you also add chunks of fresh/dried fruit
-Freezing Jello is gross
-Freezing coffee is FANTASTIC (see recipe below)


Coconut Coffee Popsicles
Adapted from MyColombianRecipes
(Makes 6-8 popsicles depending on your molds)

1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
1 can (13.5 oz) condensed milk
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup brewed black coffee (I used coffee Arabica)

1.Pour the three types of milk into a blender and blend until smooth.
2.Fill 3 quarters of the popsicle molds with the blended mixture. Fill the remaining spaces in the molds with coffee. Insert popsicle sticks and freeze overnight.

I want to try freezing alcohol pops next! ^0^

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Unauthentic Laksa

Since my last trip back to KL (in which my dad took me to an old favorite hawker and hovered over the poor woman to make sure she increased the amount of tau-foo puffs in my curry laksa since I wouldn’t eat prawns) I have developed an unexplainable obsession for rice noodles and South East Asian spiciness.

These skinny, long, transparent bundles have suddenly made their comeback as Talia’s Carbs of Choice -which according to, my newest favorite source of calorie content information-is 346 calories per 100 grams.

I've recently made my own non-authentic version of a laksa (that would probably cause Malaysian hawker food snobs to snicker and point)using pumpkin, tofu and a ready made packet of laksa paste (further jeering).

It actually did taste pretty good, so if you don't want to continue eating seafood based laksa for the rest of your life and want to live a little...

Non-Authentic Vegetarian Laksa
Adapted from

Traditional vs. non-traditional ingredients

This recipe serves 4, -though as my pictures might suggest, I made mine for ONE

400g pumpkin, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
200g rice noodles (I used organic, brown rice vermicelli)

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tomato, peeled and sliced
1 packet laksa paste (I used the IKAN BRAND Traditional Johor Laksa paste)
1 cup vegetable stock
400ml tin coconut milk
1/2 cup frozen tofu (defrosted and cut into bite sized cubes)
1/2 cup bean sprouts
juice of 1 lime

1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Toss pumpkin with vegetable oil and salt. Place on a baking sheet and into the hot oven, and roast for about 15 minutes or until golden.
2. Place the rice noodles in a large bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover the noodles by at least 2.5cm. Set aside to soak for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Drain with a colander and set aside.
3. In the same large pot, heat 1 teaspoon oil and cook the tomato slices over medium heat for a few minutes to release juices. Add the laksa paste and stock, then bring a boil. Add roasted pumpkin and tofu, allow it to simmer for at least 2 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
4. Finally, add the bean sprouts and simmer until almost cooked but still a bit crunchy. Season with lime juice.
5. To serve, divide the rice noodles among 2-4 bowls, ladle the hot soup over. You can garnish it with sliced spring onions and/or coriander leaves if you prefer.

The Not-Very-Authentic, Nor Photogenic but Tasty Bowl of Laksa

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oriental Veggie Wrappo

I love the vegetable wrap from Element Fresh, one of my favorite health-freak places to eat in Beijing and Shanghai. I almost always grab one of these wraps at the Hongqiao Airport for fear of going hungry on China Eastern Airlines, where they give you a nasty roujiamo (something like a chinese burger) wrapped in foil for the 2 hour flight back to Beijing.

Anyway, it's getting to be an expensive craving to fulfill regularly because I live a good 35 kuai taxi ride away from the Sanlitun branch in Beijing. So, on a boring weekend afternoon, I decided to try and reinvent something more economical. This is what I came up with...

The Oriental Veggie Wrappo

2 flour tortillas (see recipe that follows if you too, have a lot of time and flour in your hands)

For the filling
1/2 large carrot, peeled
2 stalks celery
2 cubes five-spice dried bean curd
1/2 cup enoki Mushrooms
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 cup bamboo shoots (packaged, ready to eat)

1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp olive oil


1. Julienne the carrot, celery, bean curd and bamboo shoots into thin strips/matchsticks. Slice slice and slice away! Then, set aside.

2. Roast Bell Peppers and Enoki Mushrooms*:
Preheat oven to 230 C. Slice the bell pepper into strips and coat with 1 tsp olive oil. In a bowl, rub the enoki mushrooms with 1 tsp olive oil, sesame oil and soy sauce. Spread pepper and mushrooms in a single layer on a baking sheet, place on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until mushrooms are cooked and bell peppers are slightly browned. Allow to cool before using.

3. Spread the ingredients evenly on your tortillas. Roll up each tortilla and cut each rolled wrap in half diagonally. Enjoy.

*Alternatively, you can just stir fry them if you're in a rush, or if you like to eat your peppers raw, you can skip this~~

Note: The dried bean curd I bought was extremely flavorful and salty, so I didn't need to use much seasonings for the other veggies.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

From Classic Breads: Delicious Recipes from All Around the World

Original Recipe makes 10 tortillas, but mine were a little big so I got 7...

5 cups + 650g all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp margarine
1 cup + 370 g hot water

1. Mix in flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Add the margarine (I formed some crumbs with my fingers)and slowly pour the hot water into the bowl. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and compact. Place in a well-greased bowl, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and divide it into 10 small, equal-sized balls. Roll these out with a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/4 inch (5 mm) each.
3. Heat a iron skillet (or in my case, a frying pan) and when it is hot, cook the tortillas for about 1 minute on each side (until it looks kind of bubbly and brown spots start to appear). Remove from heat and set aside until needed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Visual Delights: Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

I used an easy chocolate cake recipe (from

Decorated with Pocky sticks because my boyfriend loves them.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Couscous

It would appear that my addiction to nuts and seeds is beginning to fade and I am now on some kind of grain eating spree-which I suppose isn't a bad thing, I'm guessing grains are lower in fat and that's what I'm aiming for.
Anyway, after milling about Carrefour after a dance class yesterday (which by the way, is a horrible weekend activity in China, it is crazy packed and everyone's yelling and snatching vegetables and blocking the aisles with their shopping carts-Carrefour I mean, not the dance class)I bought some brown rice and couscous,assuming that these would be healthier options to satisfy my new eating preferences.
Couscous are about 176 calories a cup cooked, so I don't feel THAT much carb guilt, even they they are supposedly not "whole grain" but "refined, processed grains".
I kind of like them because they are so easy to cook (just add water!).

This recipe is an inspiration from something I found on Sanitarium's website, except I've modified it to the point where I don't think it's much of a salad anymore.

This is pretty good with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese

Roasted Vegetable Couscous
½ medium sized red pepper, sliced
½ medium sized onion, sliced
½ sweet potato, cut into small cubes
½ small carrot, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper

½ cup couscous
½ cup water
2 teaspoons vegetable bouillon granules
Fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcuis. In a plastic container, combine peppers, sweet potatoes,carrots and onions. Pour in olive oil, vinegar, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover the container and shake well, until vegetables are well coated. Roast for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned.
2. Place couscous in a bowl. Dissolve granules in boiling water and pour over couscous. Cover and stand for 3 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Stir with fork.
3. Toss warm couscous and roasted vegetables together. Mix in salt and paprika according to your taste. Serve garnished with cilantro leaves.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Roasted Tomato Rice Salad

So I'm trying to eat healthier now (ignore the previous post with cinnamon rolls), by eating less fat during the day and less carbs and fat for dinner.
Learning to cook rice (and eat them) has opened up the doors to a bunch of new recipes. One of which I really wanted to try was the rice salad.
The concept of rice in a salad is kind of weird for me, and yet, so novel enough that it's almost intriguing. (yes, i am aware that i am a moron who has never heard of rice salad before)
I couldn't find any good recipes that didn't include salad dressing-which I don't have-so I ended up improvising from a roasted tomato salad recipe instead.

Roasted Tomato Rice Salad

1 big tomato
1/2 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon dried basil
3/4 cup cooked rice (cooled)
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon raisins
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1.Slice tomato lengthwise into three pieces.
2.Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (392 degrees F). Combine the 2 teaspoons olive oil, garlic, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl, add onions and tomatoes and toss lightly until coated.
3.Place a piece of tin foil on your roasting pan, arrange onions in the base and place tomatoes on top of the onions. Fold up the sides of the tin foil to cover the vegetables.
4.Roast for about 20 minutes. When the tomatoes are soft, remove from the oven, discard the excessive juice and transfer to a serving dish.
5.In another bowl, mix together rice, seeds, raisins, 1 teaspoon olive oil, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and salt. Pour over tomatoes in the dish and serve-or-if you want to make a rice tower thingie, use a piece of tomato as the base, then add a layer of onions, then a layer of rice (and so on). It’s a cute presentation~

Thursday, May 7, 2009

You know...

You know you're not sick anymore when you have the energy to bake cinnamon sticky rolls...and eat them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Porridge for the sick girl

What's this?! you sneer, this colorless, unpretty bowl of carbs, what is it doing here, displayed for all the world to see?

Well, this happens to be the only thing I could actually stomach for the past 5 days: a bowl of porridge (or "congee" I suppose).

Basically I've had a nasty stomach virus since last Wednesday night (which was ironic, because that was the day I had planned to start my latest diet) don't want to know the details of that but the point is my stomach refused everything I fed it, plus it hurt like a bitch all the time.

It occurred to me around the third day that it might help to bland down my foods-after trial and error with Indian food, and later with white wine and random street food-and I was finally sensible enough to cook a pot of porridge.

Unlike some people who hate porridge (like my best friend, who associates it with being sick), I used to love porridge and could and did, at one point, eat it for every meal during high school.

Unfortunately, being the carb wuss that I have been, rice has been off my diet for quite a long time, as far back as before I started cooking, and well...the truth is...I don't know how to and have never successfully cooked rice. I don't know how to use a rice steamer. In fact, I may or may not have tried to microwave rice about 2 years ago, and that did not end well-unless you like crispy, crunchy (and slightly burnt) rice, which now that I think about it, wouldn't be that bad really.

The funny thing is, I was miraculously successful with congee on my first attempt.

Mustering up every last bit of breath in me (or what felt like it), I threw less than a cup of rice (bought at some point by my housemate), a piece of ginger, 2 shiitake mushrooms and some spring onions in a big pot, filled it up to almost the brim with water, boiled it and let it simmer for about 40 minutes while I went to lie down. When it was done, I added plenty of salt and pepper and feasted like a sick person.

I don't know if it was the fact that it was warm or bland or liquid-or all of the above, but it was fantastic for my tummy and it was nice to revisit something I haven't had for such a long time.

The next time I made it, I grated half a carrot and half a turnip in about 20 minutes into the simmering, it was yummy.


-and I stumbled upon this while googling the word 白粥, which is plain porridge-

There is a porridge weight loss plan-which really doesn't sound all that bad-not that I would try it, non of these things sound very exciting to cook, plus get-skinny-quick diets have never worked for me in the past. But anyway, apparently,you could potentially lose 4-6 pounds in 3 days eating congee.

The Congee Diet
Day 1
Breakfast: Plain congee, 1 mantou (steamed bun)
Lunch: Plain congee, 1 boiled egg
Dinner: Plain congee, 1 plate stir fried vegetables
Day 2:
Breakfast: Plain congee, 1 sesame paste bun
Lunch: Plain congee, 1 boiled egg
Dinner: Plain congee, 1 plate stir fried vegetables
Day 3
Breakfast: Plain congee, 5 pieces chocolate biscuits
Lunch: Plain congee, 1 raisin bun
Dinner: Plain congee, 1 plate stir fried vegetables

Apparently you can eat all the congee you like as long as you don’t add on the other food.
Apparently it is good for detox.
Apparently it might cause a bad reaction with your stomach.

Meh.If anything all my past diet attempts have made me, if not skinnier, is a skeptic.

About Me

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I'm a journalism student and a lacto-ovo vegetarian. Baking, getting random Chinese ingredients, reading recipes and playing in the kitchen are part of my many interests.