PLANT in Itaewon


It has been a little over 2 weeks since I have arrived in Seoul, although it feels alternatively like I’ve only just arrived here and like I have been here for ages! I have to be honest in writing that I still feel homesick at times and that adjusting is a little more difficult when I realize that I’ll be staying in Seoul for a longer time period than just a vacation. I just began Korean language classes and may potentially audit a course with my faculty advisor at Ewha so I think the routine of being a student will help me to feel more settled. Of course, my partner and his family have been so supportive as well and I feel so lucky to have them because otherwise I would be even more of a nervous wreck than I already am! I supposed I should move on to the food though…this time, I am profiling a restaurant that I ate at over the summer with a friend. The restaurant’s name is PLANT and it is located in Itaewon, an area of Seoul that is particularly known for being foreigner-friendly. I knew of the restaurant through the […]

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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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Monkey diary – three days as a fruitarian

Plagued by the reality of industrial farming described by Michael Pollan, I’ve decided to try a fruit-and-seed diet, which would consist of only things that can be harvested without killing the plants. At first I thought it would be pretty restrictive, but a lot of vegetables are fruits: tomato, cucumber, bittermelon, bell pepper, chayote, green beans, eggplants, etc. Cereal is the hard part. I wasn’t sure if I should include corn, rice, wheat and other grains in my experiment because technically they can be harvested without killing the plants, but in reality the plants are killed after the harvest. The same goes for soy beans. Then I figure the industrial farms also kill tomato and cucumber plants after harvesting, and my experiment is geared toward whether I can survive on only fruits and seeds, so restricting to heirloom produce is “beyond the scope of our study”. Bought $29.72’s worth of avocados, navel oranges, blueberries, plums, cultured coconut milk (i.e., coconut yogurt), and bananas from Berkeley Bowl. – First day – Brunch: one plum, one avocado smoothie. Snacks: blueberries. Work from home. At about 4 pm I was doing ok, then I saw Continue reading Monkey diary – three days as a fruitarian

Tinh Luat restaurant – thoughtful vegan food


In this unassuming restaurant, I found the best sugarcane juice I’ve ever had. When the waiter asked if we would like three glasses of fresh-squeezed(*) sugarcane juice for the table, only my dad was persuaded. The waiter was quite earnest too, he insisted that it was good and that it would induce no extra cost (the meal is buffet-style for a modest $8.99/person, roughly the cost of a bowl of pho in Berkeley). However, the sugarcane juices I’d had before, although good, were soon too sweet, and for a hot summer day I find sugar particularly less appetizing than plain water, so I declined. Immediately after I took a sip from my dad’s glass, I changed my mind. I asked the same waiter for a glass, he laughed at me of course, “Told you it was good!”. It was not sugary, but sweet in a vegetal way, somewhat like an intensified goji berry tea. My dad ordered a second glass for himself. […]

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Revisit Gather


Let me first get this off my chest: I hate restaurants with low lighting (e.g., Burma Superstar and Bistro Liaison), red lights (e.g., Thanh Long and Mission Chinese), and yellow lights (Gather). Why can’t we have nice white neon lights? I don’t go there to film romantic dinner scenes or deal drugs under the table. I go there to eat food, I want to be able to see the true colors of what I’m eating, and I want to take good pictures of them. Is that really too much to ask? Okay. On to the next business. A lot of people ask me what my favorite restaurant in Berkeley is. I can’t answer that. It’s like asking me who’s my favorite friend. But if you ask me where I would take someone out to dinner, I have a few cards to deal depending on what that person likes. If they like grilled meat and interesting food, I recommend Ippuku. If they’re vegetarian, I take them to Gather. That said, unlike the consistently good Ippuku, Gather gives me ups and […]

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One shot: Avocado smoothie


This post is for the Vietnamese expats in particular and anyone who thinks of the avocado as a fruit (to be eaten as a fruit, not a vegetable). In America, people tend to think of avocado in guacamole terms or as a meat substitute in sandwiches. If you think avocado for dessert is weird, shall we talk about your pumpkin pie? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Ever since the day I saw the option of “avocado smoothie” at UCafe, I’ve had 3-5 avocado smoothies every week. Drinking each smoothie with boba was like looking through old photographs and reliving the beautiful days. The avocado is healthy, but that’s not why I like it. It’s the best option when I’m too tired to chew, want something mildly sweet and cold, and when the weather is too hot for meat and carbs. It replenishes my soul and keeps me alive through the summer humidity that accumulates in my tin-roof office building. I regret that I had not eaten more avocados in Vietnam, where the fruit is as big as my whole hand from wrist to middle finger tip and as luscious as molten chocolate cake. Continue reading One shot: Avocado smoothie

One bite: Harusame soup at Cha-Ya

Kinoko harusame ($8.50) - potato starch glass noodle soup with mushroom (shimeji, eryngii, enoki, hiratake (oyster mushroom), portobello mushroom and shiitake.

Kinoko harusame (~$8) – potato starch glass noodle soup with mushroom (shimeji, eryngii, enoki, hiratake (oyster mushroom), portobello mushroom and shiitake. Japanese glass noodle (harusame ๆ˜ฅ้›จ) is different from Vietnamese glass noodle: it’s made from potato starch (instead of mung bean starch or canna starch), it’s much thicker (like a spaghetti, whereas Vietnamese glass noodle is like a capellini), and it has a softer chew. With that vegan broth sweetened by mushroom, it was comforting. […]

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Tet of a Buddhist Vietnamese expat


Mother said “you shall not eat meat on the first day of Tet“. And I said “yes, Mom.” It has been our family tradition that the first day of the lunar year is a vegan day. It’s not unique to our family of course, most Vietnamese Buddhists eat vegan on certain days of the lunar calendar, the number of days depend on the amount of devotion to practice the precept of not killing. To refrain from all of the festive food is also a step to train the mind against the worldly temptations. Normally, that would be difficult if I were at home, given the excess of pork sausage loaves, braised pork and eggs, banh chung banh tet, roast chicken, fried spring rolls, dumplings, et cetera. But I’m here by myself, it’s like expatriation on top of expatriation. To refrain from meat has never been so easy. ๐Ÿ˜‰ My quick and simple vegan lunch: steamed rice with muแป‘i mรจ (a mix of sesame, salt and sugar, similar to furikake but Vietnamese ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), steamed bok choy, shisozuke umeboshi (salted plum with pickled shiso leaf) […]

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Vegan out at Cha-Ya

Summer Green Roll – avocado, cucumber, kaiware sprout, wakame and hijiki. Alissa scooped wasabi like it was green tea ice cream, but I like this one just as it is: plain, fresh and light. It’s been a long time since I last either wrote about food or ate anything that I could write about. The occasional rainfalls during the drought of takeout Chinese are so-so hu tieu and com suon somewhere in the Ranch 99 complex, and homemade soups, lovely but no hot news. Vegetable intake has been limited to shibazuke from Berkeley Bowl, homemade kimchi, and toasted seaweed (seaweed counts, doesn’t it?). Before leaving for her trip, Cheryl fed me her black chicken soup, brown rice, tau yew bak (similar to thit kho but with soy sauce instead of fish sauce) and, like a loving sister, concerned looks and advice on how I should feed myself healthy meals. I agree with her one hundred percent, but all planned menus for the next day fluttered their wings away as I run from class to class and get home only wishing to relax. […]

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More Peach? Make Peach Sauce.

[…] now the hand is coming back. And I think that has a lot to do with food. Farming is gonna be hip again and people are going to think about the things they’re contributing to society. […] Hopefully what this is leading to is people learning to shop like all good chefs do: We go and get all the best [stuff] and come home and figure out what we’re gonna make. Italy became cool in the gastronomic world in the ’70s because people went there and the what-the-[stuff] moments or the holy-[stuff] moments were never based on truffles or super-intense technique. It was more like, “God, this is spaghetti and zucchini, and it’s this good?” It was because there was no noise in it. It was spaghetti and garlic and zucchini in season. – Mario Batali, Batali Beat, Lucky Peach Issue 3, 2012 – […]

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