Here we go again, what's new this time?  I figured I won't have much time to decorate...so I made the mushrooms ahead of time.  When it was time to serve I just stuck the mushrooms on and voila!

Recipe for cake is here.

For the mushrooms:

You're going to need:
-2 egg whites
-100g granulated sugar
-2 tbs powdered sugar
 -cocoa powder

*Whip the egg whites until soft peaks, gradually add the granulated sugar and whip to stiff peaks, fold in the powdered sugar.  Pipe the mushrooms onto a baking sheet.  The stems and caps are piped separately, of course.  Dust the tops with some cocoa powder and bake at 200'f for about 45 mins to an hour. 

To assemble the mushrooms; "glue" the stems to the caps with frosting, melted chocolate, glucose, melted sugar...pretty whatever you have on hand and is sticky.  
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Introducing my newest project/blog:


Stop by when you have the chance and tell me what you think ;).

Cheers!
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Yes, I know it's been awhile since I've posted anything...

If anyone cares or was wondering...I'm not dead, just busy.

Doing What?

The Maitreya Project brought sacred relics to Chùa Việt Nam (the temple where I volunteer), so we were busy busy busy.

Then it was the Trung Thu aka the Moon Festival. So, it was moon cake making day and night to get orders out.

Handmade Piggies
Boxes Ready to Be Filled
Traditional Mixed Nuts Mooncake

Vietnamese Ping Pei Mooncakes

Print Cakes

Theochew Pia Pastries

With the moon festival behind me it was time to enter the Puyallup Fair's Professional Fresh Floral Design Competition. I entered 8 designs and won ribbons for 7 of them, and one best in show. Here they are....

1st place, Class 1860 Design of Chrysanthemums & best in show:


1st place, class 1862 Design of Gladiolus:


1st place, class 1864 Design of mixed flowers, wholesale value over $30:


1st place, class 1865 Basket Design:


2nd place, Class 1863 Design of mixed flowers, wholesale value under $30:




2nd place, Class 1868 Novelty design using a container other than a vase or basket:


3rd place, Class 1871 Fresh wedding bouquet:


What's next? ...a few days off then it's back to school for 2 more quarters and I'll be done! and a new chapter opens in my life. Time flies eh? ;)


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Cake? Where's the Cake?

Today was another sunny day in Seattle. As usual, I was around 2 something p.m. I was sitting in Psychology and the class was discussing human behavior and cultural influences. One of the scenarios was "You have asked your mother-in-law not to give little Elliot a piece of chocolate cake because it will spoil his dinner. She says that she make the cake especially for Elliot and gives him a piece." The question was what would do next/how would you react?

OMG! 2 of my classmates basically replied they would tell her the cake will spoil his dinner, take it away and save if for after dinner. Another said she would tell Elliot how thoughtful it was of his grandma to bake him the cake and ask him save it for after dinner (nice!).

My question is, what's wrong with just letting him eat the cake? Think about it, IT'S JUST CAKE. So what !?!? if it spoils his dinner. Little Eliot isn't going to fall over and die just because his missed dinner that day. The world isn't going to blow up just because he ate a slice of cake. Right? Furthermore, being 'Assertive', taking the cake away, insisting to save if for later causes more bad then good. Bad? Yes, your mother-in-law probably won't like you very much (you might not care but...why would you want someone to hate you?). You're sending the grandma the message that you and Elliot are rejecting her love and affection. She is your mother-in-law, and you're bound to run into one another more then a few times in your life time (i.e. during holidays). So if there's a grudge between the both of you, don't you think the grudge will kill the everyone's holiday mood? Not to mention, you're also putting your husband between you and his mom. Elliot will lose respect for his grandma, since you showed him that you overrule her. Elliot also be in a bad mood since he wants cake and can't have it. You probably won't be in good mood after the ordeal. So why would you react that what? There's nothing to gain. Is it really worth it? Over a slice of Cake? nah.

How would I handle the situation? I would just let Elliot eat the cake. What not, right? Instead of thinking the cake will spoil Elliot's dinner, why not take it as a gesture of love. Realize, appreciate, and be happy with the fact that your son is loved. It's just cake! If this happens regularly, I would tell the grandma in private. Even then I would find a nice way to tell her, maybe...somewhere along the lines of "Mom, I feel really guilty knowing that you're spending your time in a hot kitchen baking him these cakes just for Elliot. Why don't you take a break and relax. Elliot has had so much cake in the past few weeks, that I don't think a break from your cakes will upset him too much."

Is my solution too 'Asian', and my classmates too 'American' (whatever that means!)? I don't think so. I was once told that 'no one on this earth is nice, everyone has a bit of mean inside of them, the only difference is there are people who are dumb and people who are smart'. LOLZ But if you think about it, it's kind of true.
There's a time and place for everything, you have to be smart and pick your battles.

For god's sake, let the boy eat cake!

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If you posted a question within the last 2 weeks and don't see it published/answered...it's because I accidentally deleted it. Sorry...anyways here are the answers to the questions. If I missed any please repost. Thanks.

Re: Where to buy traditional molds for loveletters.
-Try looking online.

Re: Beating the eggs for Banh Bo Nuong
-the main point is to mix everything evenly without adding too much air into the batter.


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Any takers?


A quick lesson in Vietnamese. Me: a tree fruit also know as Tamarind. Me can either be sweet, or sour. The sweet kind makes a great snack as is. The sour kind is used in cooking to make anything from canh chua to soda Me (Tamarind soda). You can find sour tamarind at most Asian grocery stores in the spice section. It comes compressed in block, dark brown in color.

All Purpose Tamarind Paste/Syrup:
-200g sour tamarind
-300g water
-400-500g sugar
-1 tsp salt
-chili peppers (optional)

What to Do:

Boil together tamarind and water, let mixture sit for at least 1 hour (better if overnight). Strain tamarind in a sieve (press with a rubber spatula or a spoon to extract the pulp, throw away the outer seed coverings). Mix together tamarind pulp, sugar and salt, bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 15 mins, stirring occasionally.

Uses:
Me Ngào Đường (Sugared Tamarind):
A sugary sour and spicy snack. Favored by young students in Vietnam. Heck! I live in America and I like it too. *Mouth watering* Serve as is with toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top and a tooth pick to eat with.
Soda Me (Tamarind Soda): 2 tsp tamarind paste + 1 cup club soda mixed together, top with crushed peanuts.
Canh Chua: Omit tamarind soup base and replace it with tamarind paste. As with savory dishes, you can eyeball the amount and give the dish a taste taste and adjust before serving.
Nước Mắm Me: Omit lime juice and sugar, replace with tamarind paste.

Stepping off the Traditional Road.....
Tamarind Cosmo: Use your favorite Cosmo recipe and replace cranberry juice and lime with 1 tsp tamarind paste.

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This is a "5 year plan" that I recently did for one of my classes. I've always been the type of person that takes life a one day at a time and thus I don't put much thought into what the future holds in 5 or 10 years. After a few weeks (I had all quarter to do this) of deep thinking, of looking into what I'm passionate about and how/what I want to do with my life; here's what I came up with...don't laugh!

The “Big Picture”
I’ve dedicated my 20s to exploring the world and enjoying the freedom of being able to wake up everyday and do whatever I feel like doing. I don’t plan to settle down until I’m at least 30. In five years I’ll be 27, which means if according to plan, I still have 3 more years to do random things. So my five year plan is more like a 7 ½ - 8 year plan. By the time I’m 29-30 I would like to own my own bakery/school.

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher since I was in first grade. Their ability to inspire and guide the future is amazing! I wanted to do just that. However, about two years ago while visiting a few of my former teachers I discovered that because of standardized testing; teaching is not what I used to be. Sadly, becoming a fulltime, hardcore teacher is out of the picture but there’s still a little desire deep down inside of me to teach something.

Baking is the drug that I’ve been passionately addicted to ever since second grade. It was the week before Christmas break and Mrs. Jolly taught the class to make sugar cookies. Mamma Mia! I’ve been hooked ever since.

Whatever you’ve received a lot of, you should give back. I feel very fortunate to have the privilege to live in a society that embraces individuality, uniqueness and freedom. I grew up in a loving family, and we always had food, clothes and shelter. I had wonderful teachers who always encouraged me to do my best; to never be good at something but be great at it. My aspiration is to give all of this back to less fortunate children in third world countries. Children are the future and if we want the future to change then we must take the initiative to educate the future. Teach them to not be afraid to question authority, to believe in themselves, embrace their individuality, be compassionate towards others, be open-minded to change and always have passion for what they do.

Back to my bakery/school thing... My plan is to eventually open a bakery and I’m going to call it Moi Passion La Vie or Passion for short. It’s going to be a European bakery with Asian flavors; the best of both worlds. Instead of hiring chefs, I’ll hire pastry students so I can teach them a thing or two while working for me and hopefully be able to inspire them to reach for the stars, the same way my teachers have inspired me. All of the profits will go towards building orphanages and schools for children in third world countries. With anytime left over I’ll teach a class on something, do fire dancing, acting, tailoring, wedding flowers; all of the stuff I’ve been doing…all on the side, to keep life interesting.

My rough, very rough 5 year plan:
1st year:
Take fire dancing lessons, work somewhere, probably a small bakeshop just for the experience.

2nd year:
Travel the world.

3rd year:
Learn to swim and then go to Hawaii, Florida or Mexico to swim with dolphins.

4th year:
Try to get a job doing pastries in a hotel, save some money. Try sky diving.

5thyear:
Start a catering business, with the money saved. Build up reputation, save more money. Meet my true love.

6th-8th year:
Open Moi Passion La Vie with money saved. Try to turn a profit within 1 ½ years of opening Passion. Use profits to fund schools for orphans in third world countries. Get married and adopt my first child by the time I’m 35. Write a book? Teach something?

I know I’m going to run into countless obstacles and a few things are probably not going to turn out as planned. But I’d rather do something and have it blow up in my face then to not do it and have to go through live wondering what if. Nothing is impossible when you’re fueled by passion.

Sounds good? Am I too ambitious?

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How has Vietnamese food changed after the fall of Saigon in 1975?

This question constantly comes up whenever I think of Vietnamese food. I've always believed that in order to excel in something you need to dig deep into that subject's roots; in order to understand what conditions caused it evolved into what it is now.

Born in Seattle, 10 years after the war ended, I grew up eating Vietnamese food with a hint of Seattle. During my trip to Vietnam last summer, I discovered a version of Vietnamese food that I had never tasted before. What now? What's going on? Was the Vietnamese food I was familiar with not "authentic"? Curious as to what was happening I was provoked and determined to figure out how things came to be.

Common sense…in order to survive we must eat. How well we eat depends on such variables as food availability, the economy, and our desire or goal for eating. There are those of us who live to eat and then there are those who eat to live. Where am I going with this?

Prior to the fall of Saigon in 1975, South Vietnam which was free from Communist rule; was one of the most advanced nations of Southeast Asia if not the world. There is a Vietnamese saying “Ăn no mặc ấm”, literally translated, Eat to be full, wear clothes to be warm. This describes the most basic requirements of mankind for survival. There is similar saying, “Ăn ngon mặc đẹp” (literally translated, eat delicious food, wear beautiful clothes), which describes how the basic requirements are transformed via luxury. Frankly, with a small amount of money in one’s pockets, one’s goal or desire for eating would probably be for energy to survive. Eating to make you full does not mean the food needs to taste good, likewise eating good food doesn’t exactly mean it has to make you full.

After the fall of Saigon, the nearly half of the citizens of South Vietnam left to flee communist rule. In the remaining half, a majority were either sent to “reeducation camps” or kicked out of there house and sent to kinh tế mới or “new economy”. The nation’s food supply dwindled. Instead of eating rice, people were forced to eat a mix of rice and barley or mung beans, simply because there wasn’t enough rice/food to go around and people needed to eat what they can to survive. As for the economy, everyone had to exchange their money. By exchange, every family had to put their money in the bank and the bank gave them a flat amount of $200 regardless of how much they put in. With only $200 dollars, and a family to feed, cloth, and shelter in a new unstable communist economy, eating delicious food is most likely out of the picture. Piggybacking on that, hundreds of thousands left Vietnam in the years to follow either by foot or boat. These people were usually wealthy, since they had to pay a hefty amount to escape. Thus, those who ate delicious food and wore beautiful clothes took the food culture of a prosperous nation with them.

With that said, after the fall of Saigon a new food culture began to sprout. However, under the harsh conditions at the time, food needed to be good and cheap and filling. So how do you do that? Well….let’s take Pho for an example, instead of making a good broth with 2kg of bones for 10 bowls of Pho, the way it used to be. Now only 200g is used to make 20 bowls of Pho, with the help of MSG…costumers won’t know the difference. To make it filling and cheap dầu cháo quẩy is added. And there you have it, MSG Pho with Dầu Cháo Quẩy << st="on">Vietnam are actually eating, if you don’t believe me take a trip there and see for yourself!

The flavor profile has also changed. For example bo kho and curry, while I tasted these two dishes during my visit I noticed that they tasted alike and I could hardly tell the difference. Bo Kho originated in China and was brought into Vietnam via Chinese colonization. Curry was introduced to Vietnam from India via trade merchants. With the new food culture in Vietnam Bo kho the old fashion way is pretty much nonexistent in Vietnam, because… in order to survive it needs to survive economically. Bo kho made the way it was prior to 1975 is just not marketable. On the other hand, in Vietnamese communities outside of Vietnam (or at least in Seattle), the concoction of bo kho and curry just won’t sell. these two dishes are merged into one; gaining one at the expense of two.

If you’re thinking Vietnamese food culture prior to 1975 is only available in Vietnamese communities outside of Vietnam…you’re only ¾ right. The thing is during the early years of Vietnamese refugee settlement foreign countries, Vietnamese food ingredients were just not available as it is today. Thus, people had to improvise and do the best with what they had. For example, in states like WA where ngo gai is expensive, it is simply omitted from Pho…it was just a condiment anyways not harm done. Instead of making bánh bò with cơm rượu (fermented rice) it is made with yeast. Although there are a few changes, these changes are small and they have little effect on the overall flavor, and integrity of the dish. Hence, Vietnamese food prior to 1975 is still very much apparent Vietnamese communities outside of Vietnam. As for what’s considered authentic and what’s not? I’ll let you be the judge. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…or should I say Deliciousness is in the tongue of the taster.

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Dear Readers,

I was meaning to publish recent comments that were left by Visitors but accidentally clicked on the reject button instead of publish. Thus, if you posted a comment in the last week or two and don't see...please repost (if you want to).

While we're on the subject of comments....you've probably noticed that I usually ignore comments that are left by 'anonymous' posters. Reason being, I don't see why I should spend my time answering someone who doesn't even care enough to leave me their name! Why should I? I don't owe them anything...some people need to learn some manners.

Play with your food!
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Let's Do This!!!!

http://www6.earthhourus.org/
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I've been tagged by Do What I Like

Five facts about Me:


....I'm going to let my visitors decide what they would like to know about me. So here's your chance! Post your questions about me as a comment below and I will answer the first 5.

First Question:
Oh goody... I get to post a question... Let´s see.. Hmm... oh yes, i have one. How come I no longer see u in NK?! :)
>>The truth is I don't like you! Just kidding! ;P I've just been busy 'adjusting' to things. As you probably know, I recently graduated, traveled, then started culinary school. But everything is finally falling into its place, I'll be back in NK soon. :)

Question 2:
How old am I?
>>old enough.....:D I'm 22.

Question 3:
Who has been eating all the good stuff that you've been churning out?
>>They go to family and friends and sometimes...the trash can.

Question 4:
Do you ever consider become a TV chef or open your own catering business/ restaurants? Food network is dumped with French and Intalian cusine, and their food is not as attractive (to me) as ones you bring to the table.
>>Me? a TV chef? Honestly, I can't say that I haven't thought about it. BUT I think the chances are pretty low. Mainly because my philosophy/style in the kitchen is very low key, low profile. It seems like America is thirsty for seeing Vietnamese food or "Asian" food (whatever that is) as something that's sacred, complex and mystical. I have yet to see any Vietnamese cookbook written in english that isn't cashing in on that thirst by sugar coating and glorifying everything. I just can't do that and since I can't do that. I probably won't sell very well thus probably will never make it onto TV...which is fine for me since my passion is to be in the kitchen anyways. ;)

Question 5:
where do you get the original recipe from? What the average attempts for the food?
>>I get recipes the same way people have been getting for thousands of years. I learn from my elders, most of my recipes start out as ones passed down to me from my family, and family friends. I discovered cooking has become a lost art and most people are more than happy to pass down a traditional family recipe just for the sake of keeping it alive. It usually takes me about 2 tries (but sometimes up to 20) to get satisfactory results from a recipe.

The Meme rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

Five bloggers I would like to tag:
Yochana's Cake Delight
Food Lover's Journey
Foodcrazee
play-play in the kitchen
precious moments

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I was given this from Edith and Jadepearl. Thanks for thinking of me! I am truly honored.

Friendship is always worth more if you pass it on, thus, I would like to to pass this ball on to:

Lily's Wai Sek Hong

East meets West
Pusiva's Culinary Studio
The Budding Cook
Zu's Kitchen
Yochana's Cake Delight

Cheers!

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