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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Food and film: Rinco’s Restaurant


This movie is Slow Food personified. It is about food that’s cooked in a slow way (literally), and the movie itself is at a pace that could not be slower. Since childhood, the protagonist has always dreamed to make a restaurant. With the help of a family friend, she succeeded in converting her mother’s back shed into one, where she only serves one table per day, and the customer leaves it up to her to decide the courses. Her restaurant is named Restaurant Snail. As always the case with Japanese movies, there are several scenes that can easily be a painting. The cast doesn’t go the cutesy or glamorous way; in fact, they don’t make themselves beautiful, but the beauty comes from the realistic portrayal of people in their normal lives. The food is quite diverse, it’s not only Japanese food. I was surprised that Rinko can find some of the ingredients that she uses, considering that the setting of her town seems to be rural Japan. I mean, would we be able to find lamb chops and pomegranates in a local grocery store in Smallville, Kansas? Hmm… Continue reading Food and film: Rinco’s Restaurant

Pretty Good Number One bucket list

Go to Tokyo. Visit the Odaiba Takoyaki Museum. Practise using chopsticks correctly and buy a (few) pairs at Kappabashi. Eat shave ice and watch fireworks (and people) on the Sumida river bank in July. Eat pan-fried soup dumplings in a neighborhood dumpling restaurant in Nakano. Eat “hone” (pronounced |hoh-nay|, meaning: deep-fried sea eel backbone). Stop eating eel because they’re in the red on the Seafood Watch list. Thanks to Matthew Amster-Burton’s book, I’ve had the first 7 items on my bucket list figured out (it’s a bucket list, not a to-do list because of the stop-eating-eel thing). I can’t wait to do them (except the stop-eating-eel thing). If a few months ago I was complacent with imaginatively traveling through books, Pretty Good Number One throws one delicious, chuckle-inducing paragraph after another to my face and say “go to Tokyo, you lazy donkey”. Just about the most expensive place to visit in the world, thanks, Mr. Amster-Burton. 😉 Except for the part where he describes Chinese green tea as having “a hint of smoky barbecue” and how red bean paste is an acquired taste for Westerners (because beans are supposed to show up in […]

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Judy and Loving Live Treats


The cookies are wrapped in packages of three – one can surprisingly satiate your hunger, and there are two more to share with friends. It’s all about sharing. […]

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Blue Trout and Black Truffles – a journey through Europe in 300 pages

Blue Trout and Black Truffles by J. Wechsberg (Academy Chicago Publishers, Second printing 2001), but the book seems to have been published in German as well (Forelle blau und schwarze Trüffeln (1964)), as Wechsberg also wrote in French, German and Czech (although a majority of his works is in English).

Blue Trout and Black Truffles by J. Wechsberg (Academy Chicago Publishers, Second printing 2001), but the book seems to have been published in German as well (Forelle blau und schwarze Trüffeln (1964)), as Wechsberg also wrote in French, German and Czech (although a majority of his works is in English). When I was little, and even now, my mom would tell me about the regional specialties of provinces in Vietnam and even other countries. She’s not a traveller, those were places that she has never been to, but she read about them in books and she has the uncanny memory to remember every detail of what she reads and recite it with such enthusiasm and emotion that makes you feel like you’re reading the book yourself. So I never felt the need to travel. (The only thing you can’t really experience from reading is the smell – it’s often the hardest sense to put into words, and any word description is always an understatement of the actual smell.) Good writers can make you want to travel to the place they describe, taste the food they praise, meet the people they talked to. And then […]

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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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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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Food and Film: 4 short animations with food

Short films are the best, because sometimes I get cravings in the middle of the night and there are no restaurants open (I wish something opened between midnight and 5 am, a rice porridge stall or a noodle soup vendor would be nice). 1. Omelette – by Madeline Sharafian. (Copyright CalArts Films) Simple and sweet. 2. French Roast – (Oscar Nominated Animated Short 2010) It’s coffee, not really food, but still…

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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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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