9 tips to make your food post interesting

Recently I’ve received an increasing number of requests to guest-post on my site, which makes me ecstatic, but it also sets me in a difficult position to evaluate what is interesting. Of the millions of food blogs out there, what makes yours interesting? It’s you. Your voice, your emotions and your own experience with the food can set your post miles above a recipe that I can find just 0.2 seconds after I google its name. I’m no professional blogger, but I’ve read a fair share of food blogs, and from the ones that I keep returning to, I’ve learned and formed my own set of guidelines on how to write a post (which I try to follow, sometimes more successful than others). In general, recipe posts have more room for personal stories, and they also comprise the most common type of food blogs (small sample: of the top 50 food blogs on Delish, 43 are recipes), so these guidelines are more geared toward recipe blogging than reviews. I’m gonna skip the photos, although they’re important, they’re the varnish and the writing is the wood. 1. Write statements with specific details, geographically and […]

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Recipe versus Review

Today I make a list to re-evaluate my blogging life. Recipe posts: Pros: A lot of room for personal story A lot of control with pictures: position, setting (decoration, utensil, plating), lighting, time (time of the day, amount of time for taking picture), camera equipment (unless you’re brazen and bring a tripod into the restaurant, some people do that, and I know some people who dislike people who do that) Single product – cost efficiency No partner necessary, although a helpless victim test subject friend might be useful Almost always a good result Experiment: you can do things a thousand times, talking about your experiments also makes a good story (example: tofu misozuke experiment by Oanh and Linh-Dang at Rau Om) Relevance to readers: high – almost everyone can follow a recipe if they want to Continue reading Recipe versus Review

Himalayan Flavors and the mango art

Last year I had a great meal at Himalayan Flavors, starting with a reddish purple smoothie whose ingredients I no longer remember and can’t find anywhere on their current menu, and ending with a mango dessert. The owner is Nepalese, so technically, the food is Nepalese, which is too similar to Indian for me to discern because I haven’t had much of either. A quick Google search renders over 6 million results, but the actual number of differences between Nepalese and Indian foods are few and easy enough to remember: Nepalese cooks use no cream/curd, so their gravies are thinner and more watery than Indian gravies. In Nepalese dishes, green vegetables are chopped up and stir-fried, like in Chinese cooking, except for the cumin. In Indian dishes, the green vegetables are turned into paste (like saag paneer (spinach and soft cheese), the best of which I’ve had is at Aslam’s Rasoi, but that’s a different story). Nepalese cooks do not use sugar to flavor the savory dishes. Source: Binaya Manandhar Continue reading Himalayan Flavors and the mango art

Goma mushi manju (black sesame button)

Technically, ごま蒸し饅頭 (goma mushi manjuu) means Steamed Sesame Bun (as a friend told me), but I’m a firm believer that proper nouns, i.e., names, cannot be translated without losing some of their meaning. Since there is no sufficient translation already, I might as well make the English name suitable to describe the object instead of sticking to the literal translation. Hence, to distinguish these little buns from the gazillion of buns in the Far East, I shall call them “buttons”. Flaky, multi-super-thin-layered dough. Semi-sweet black sesame paste. Adorable, in every sense of the word. Here’s the label, for those who can read Japanese:

Sencha and yomogi mochi

The third pairing of mochi and Japanese green tea. Perfect! Yes, finally a mochi that goes perfectly with sencha. Yomogi (Japanese mugwort), julienned into tiny strings and mixed with the mochi dough, gives the mochi a clean, refreshing taste, which reminds me of the tip of a Vietnamese bánh ít or a bánh ít gai (*). However, what struck me was the filling: red bean and sweet potato paste. The red bean is the main factor, the sweet potato is only at the top, closest to the doughy coat. The azuki sweetness subdues the fishiness (umami) of sencha, and the sencha bitterness subdues the sweetness. Is this why the Japanese use azuki for their desserts so often? Why didn’t the sencha – matcha-mochi pair work as well? The matcha mochi also has azuki paste, but I think the orange juice and the walnuts distracted me. The yomogi clarifies the taste in a more floral and less bitter way than the matcha; and like saffron, sometimes a spice’s presence isn’t noticeable, but its absence would be. Anyways, this pair also shows that a simpler mochi […]

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Welcome back, Appetite!

Pineapple fried rice, with tomato, eggs, cashew nut, onion, pork, and the highlight: raisin. So simple. So good. I’m not crazy about Thai food, but this is the first time in a month that a meal tastes better than my expectation. Welcome back, Appetite!

Matcha and kabocha mochi

Another pairing of Japanese tea and Japanese snack. A bowl of matcha is supposed to suffice your daily vegetable need because you’re actually consuming the leaves themselves, in powder form. Matcha is served in a bowl. Mix water (205 F) with the matcha powder using a whisk, whose look reminds me of a yard broom in Vietnam, and there is no steeping time to watch out for, which I like. The whisk makes the tea foam up. The lady sitting next to me said that the foam turns her off visually, but actually the foam adds an interesting dimension to the tea. For one, it abates the seaweed taste because the foam is a cushion layer between the tea and the palate, preventing the palate to fully experience the tea. Secondly, together with the powder, it enhances the nuttiness of the tea. Near the end of the bowl, when there is more powder, the tea is extra nutty, akin to mungbean milk. Unfortunately, this nuttiness does not enhance the nuttiness of the kabocha mochi but competes with it. The mochi this time has a hojicha-flavored coat and […]

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Sandwich Shop Goodies 19 – Bánh tiêu (Chinese sesame beignet)

Little Mom and I… we just have different tastes. She likes seafood. She prefers crunchy to soft. She doesn’t like sticky rice (!) She thinks the mini sponge muffins (bánh bò bông, the Vietnamese kind) are sourer than the white chewy honeycombs (bánh bò, the Chinese kind). I beg to differ. The mini sponges can be eaten alone; the honeycombs are almost always stuffed inside a hollow fried doughnut that is more savory than sweet: their sourness needs to be suppressed by the natural saltiness of oil and the airy crunch of fried batter. That doughnut, brought to us by the Chinese and called by us “bánh tiêu“, saves the honeycombs. The honeycombs could go hang out with the dodo for all I care, but this Saigonese would always appreciate a well-fried bánh tiêu. At any time of the day, one would be able to spot a street cart with the signature double-shelf glass box next to a vat of dark yellow oil. The oil gets darkened from frying too many doughnuts too many times. Sure, it isn’t healthy. But should you really care about health when you eat fried dough? “Fried dough […]

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I can’t think of a title for Tofu Village

Lately I think I’ve reached a wall in terms of Korean food. To be precise, the Korean food that I can get my hands on, i.e., in the Bay and in Houston. Every Korean restaurant here, in strikingly similar manner to Vietnamese restaurants, has the same menu as every other Korean restaurant. The menu may contain a hundred things, but it boils down to maybe ten, with tiny variations. To be blunt, I’m bragging that I can name practically every dish on a Korean menu in the States. The novelty is gone. Little knowledge is left to obtain. But just as I don’t stop going to Vietnamese eateries altogether, I still like to share a big Korean meal with Mom and Dad. A bubbling jeongol, rice and banchan always give the familiarity that a Western meal cannot. That said, there are a few things that I’m still not used to, such as the scissors. The lady was cutting up the crabs and octopus with big black scissors. I admit their convenience, but I get the weird feeling that she is cutting flowers. Why? I don’t know. Anyway, I didn’t eat […]

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