An FOB feeling happy after reading Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat


It starts with the food bullying that I feel I can relate to Eddie Huang‘s story. Cleverly, he begins the book with dimsum, so that got my interest, but he talked about dimsum for less than 2 pages. The food bullying though, where his classmates said that his food smelled bad, that he wanted the white kid lunches, that’s where my memories came back. The bully for me wasn’t in school and wasn’t by the kids. Comments, always by adults and mostly white females, that the food my mom made made the house smell bad, or the stuff I eat or drink that they haven’t heard of, much less tried, is “gross”, are this pet peeve of mine that I can’t forgive. Sure, they may not be intended to hurt me or anyone specifically, but they’re never well-meaning. They are too minute to confront the speaker about, so I have no way to tell the speaker that she’s disrespecting my whole culture. They are the papercut stings that you feel every time you wash your hands. Eddie Huang and I don’t have anything in common, except we both being born to Asian parents. […]

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Save one meal each month for moon bears


This is Wilfred. He lives in Chengdu, China. He’s an early-middle-age moon bear (not because he’s from the Moon but because like everyone in his species, he has a moon-shape patch of yellow fur on his chest). He likes watermelon and loves to climb. On paper, he’s my sponsored bear. Wilfred is blind in both eyes, most likely a result of the poor treatment for bile-farmed bears. But at least he’s alive and now cared for in an animal shelter, something that thousands of his species can only dream of while being barred in iron cages, fed only gruel and extracted bile twice a day. Bile farming — In Asia, there’s a belief that bear bile, a digestive juice produced from the liver and stored in the gall bladder, has medicinal effects. This belief originates from China, spreads to the neighboring countries, and results in the shameful practice of bile farming. Wild bears are hunted and kept captive in “bile farms”, where their abdomens are pierced to extract the bile from the gall bladders twice a day. Only rarely is there anesthesia, their abdomens are either stabbed repeatedly until the gall bladder is found, or the […]

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Work at the Farmers’ Market


September was an extremely busy month. In addition to the usual school work, teaching, a part-time job and my editor job at the Daily Cal, I took on editing a special issue on Food (how could I resist?) and I worked for Sinto Gourmet for two weekends (again, it’s food work, I just couldn’t resist). The first weekend, Hyunjoo Albrecht, Sinto’s owner, asked me to be at the Stonestown Farmers’ Market at 7:30 am on a Sunday. I told myself that waking up early is good for me, and that after the Farmers’ Market finished I would have the rest of the day to study. That was all good in theory, until I couldn’t sleep the night before and ended up working all night, then begrudgingly got dressed to leave at sunrise. (My friend Nancy was so unbelievably kind to drive me all the way from Berkeley to Stonestown, otherwise, I would have had to take the bus at 5:30 am and made a few transfers) After leaving me with the kimchi, Hyunjoo rushed to another Farmers’ Market to set up her stall. Other vendors slowly arrived and filled up […]

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Andy Warhol’s quotes on food


Around spring of 2012, I discovered The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. I’m not a fan of his art works. (I like traditional arts, he’s the most prominent figure in American pop arts, which I actually find weirdly fascinating, though.) His life was the exact opposite of mine. (To start, he’s somebody, I’m nobody.) But I find his view on life strangely resonating and, thus, comforting. Andy Warhol was also big on food. Very American, very industrial food, but still food. A nice portion of his art works features Campbell’s tomato juice and soups, ice cream, hamburgers and bananas [which I can’t show here because it would entail paying fees ($40 per image) to the Andy Warhol Museum and many legal steps to obtain permission from the Artist Rights Society (I checked). As much as I want to support arts, my humble blog is in no condition for such extravagance. Besides, Google Images does a great job]. Back to food, in the third “Men in Black” movie, when Agent J (Will Smith) goes back in time to stop alien crime stuff, he […]

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Interview with the owners of Homestead


Early August, I had a great meal at Homestead, one of the newest additions in Oakland’s restoscape. The meal was a media invite – one benefit of working at the Daily Californian – and the owners were incredibly generous at letting us order everything we wanted at no charge, which turned out to be, as it always goes when Kristen and I dine together, everything on the menu. But that’s not the best part of a food writing job. The best part was the interview. The chefs are always busy of course, but they were willing to set aside an hour the next Monday morning to chat. Afterwards, I gained 48 minutes and 31 seconds of recording, part of which I transcribed into 6 full pages of typed notes, a load of information about opening and running a restaurant, and so much positive emotion. Earlier last week, I struggled to choose which pieces of information and which quotes should make it into my article to fit the word limit for print – there were just too many valuable details. Unlike news reporting, a feature must also follows a theme, and someone’s life is a lot more […]

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8 perks of eating out alone

Party of One by Anne Teigen I stumbled on this painting while reading an Art of the Soul blog post.

If you know me in person, you know that my only hanging-out activity is eating with friends. I like it to a sin. Now, recently, First We Feast published a list of “great places to dine alone in NYC“. I find the connotation somewhat unfair against introverts, myself included. Why do we treat “dining alone” as separate from “dining”? EVERY place is a great (or mediocre) place to dine alone. What makes a place great (or mediocre) are the food and the service, NOT the number of bodies you sit with. In college, I noticed that all of my roommates shared a common habit: they ABSOLUTELY had to call someone to go eat with them at the cafeteria, if they couldn’t find someone, they curled up in the room with mac ‘n cheese or some takeout. Recently, a friend of mine felt stressed out, I told her to treat herself to a nice dinner, but she said that wouldn’t work because eating out alone would make her look pathetic. It’s not just her either. You rarely see a table of one at nice restaurants. Somehow, eating out alone is considered sad, awkward, something […]

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HUB Berkeley Innovation Dinner – food, food for thoughts, and some afterthoughts

HUB dinner buffet - prepared by chef Hugh Groman and his catering staff.

Berkeley is known for many things. The protests, the hippies, the arts, homeless people, the diversity and the acceptance of that diversity (you can literally see every type of people and every type of activity in this city, and anyone who has actually lived here would stop seeing them as different types of people, just as people). Berkeley also has the best public university in America, and actually the only public university that ranks above the Ivy league schools in many disciplines. (Public universities usually suffer in rankings not because of the students’ quality or the teaching quality, but because of the professor-to-student ratio, which is lower than those of private schools. Why? Ask the government about funding for public schools.) UC Berkeley was the reason I came to Berkeley, and for a while I hardly thought of the city as anything but the school. For a while, the academic life was my only life, and what I had planned for was a straight path into academia (and never out of it). But things change, and on some days, I feel lost. This is when I find that the city of Berkeley is more than the university it contains. […]

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Modern, fusion and my confusion

We were driving in San Francisco. A friend suddenly asks: “would you like to live in Berlin?” – No. – Why not? – German food isn’t good. – What about London? – Same thing. British food isn’t good either. Then my friend started chastising me about how I haven’t lived in those two cities to know, how they have wonderful restaurants of various cuisines, and how I should be open-minded to try new things. True. But for me, “London has many good restaurants of various cuisines” has nothing to do with “British food is good”. Another example. I like yakisoba, and I like some yakisoba in San Francisco, but that just means I would prefer any Japanese city to San Francisco in terms of yakisoba. In order to like a city, I have to like its culture, and its regional cuisine happens to be the least personal cultural thing that pops up in my mind. Edit: with Cheryl’s comment below, I think I should clarify a few things here: there’s ethnic restaurant, and then there’s fusion restaurant, both types make up the culture of a city. So, in a sense (and in the future), a fusion Chinese restaurant in […]

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M.Y. China, xiao long bao and food reviews


The restaurant is big, clean and convenient. It’s in Westfield San Francisco, a big chunk of the fourth floor of the shopping mall is restaurants, and M.Y. China is one of them. Sitting 50 feet from the kitchen and you can smell the intoxicating fumes of dumplings. We order two Chinese classics: xiao long bao (pork & crab juicy dumplings) and niu ro mien (beef hand-pulled egg noodle soup). The niu ro mien is good. Fourteen dollars. Melting tender beef, chewy noodle (not as chewy as I would like, but I’m not a fan of egg noodle anyway), dark, flavor-packed broth (which gets a bit too salty after a while and sends you drinking water like mad). The xiao long bao‘s are dry. Twelve dollars for five. There’s not enough broth in them. The dumpling skin is dried up on top, the carrot slice at the bottom, which supposedly helps preventing the dumpling from sticking to the spoon, disrupts the harmony in texture. The pork filling? This is where my friend and I disagree. Continue reading M.Y. China, xiao long bao and food reviews

MasterChef U.S. Season 4 Mid-Season Commentary

Masterchef is a reality TV show that currently airs on Fox and is in its 4th season. I’ve watched the show for three seasons now (I missed out on the first season), and have been increasingly bothered by much of the show. While I understand the need to create drama to boost up ratings and that shows about cooking that are not on food-specific channels really aren’t actually about food per se, there are some issues, particularly in this newest season, that have been consistently bothering me about Masterchef. I figured that Mai would also feel the same way, so I asked her to watch this season with me and then see if my angry reactions were justified. We decided to share our many Facebook chat conversations with you guys (slightly edited and condensed). We’ll love to create an ongoing dialogue about this show so feel free to talk back in the comments! Any points that you disagree/agree with us? Who’s your favorite/least favorite contestant? Any judges you love/can’t stand? Join in the Flavor Boulevard conversation! Mai: Hmm, I’m watching episode 2 of MasterChef now. Doesn’t it feel like the judges choose people based on their inspirational backstory or […]

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