Thursday, September 27, 2012

quick recipe...and a cold

The weeks of traveling have caught up with me - in the form of a cold. Before this hit me last night, I was able to turn out an easy dinner. 
Vance enjoyed his dish with a Honey Brown, but I would suggest a white wine.
3 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-by-2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon water
1.5 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups lightly packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2-3 green onions for garnish
In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with the fish sauce, soy sauce, water, and sugar. Set aside to marinate for about 30 or so minutes. In a large nonstick frying pan or a wok, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add the carrots and onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the red pepper, garlic and peas; cook, stirring, 30 seconds longer. Remove the chicken from the marinade with a slotted spoon and add it to the hot pan. Cook until almost done, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the marinade and cook 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Serve topped with the green onions.
Mae Ploy or my special sauce, as it is referred to at home, is a delicious sweet and spicy sauce. It is delicious for fish, egg rolls and chicken.
Okay, I am going to fill up my teacup and head back to bed.

Monday, September 24, 2012

she's got Seoul

The past month has flown by! I just got back to Nashville after a wonderful week in Phili, DC, Hershey and Lancaster. I was able to see great friends in my favorite cities and visit with family. I am happy to be home though and now need to catch up on my Asia blog entries!
...after we left Taipei, we headed to Seoul, Korea, arriving at Incheon International Airport. A colleague, whose family is from Korea, suggested we have a Korean Barbecue dinner and it was absolutely delicious.

This dinner was fantastic. The grill was in the center of the table, and we had beef and pork belly with assorted vegetables, noodles and sauces. The Korean women can definitely be a bit motherly, coming around encouraging us to clean our plates and making sure our glasses were full. We (of course) had kimchee, a Korean dish of fermented cabbage in a spicy marinade. As the meat cooked, we pulled off pieces and assembled lettuce wraps with chili sauces, kimchee and onions - so tasty!
No matter where we went, we always figured out how to order beer. We also enjoyed some Soju, traditional Korean rice liqour (almost similar to Japanese Sake).Our schedule allowed for a free day in Seoul, and we visited Gyeongbokgung Palace (Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven) and Jongmyo Shrine. The Palace was built in 1395 and was sadly destroyed during Japanese occupations throughout hundreds of years. Jongmyo Shrine is where the spirit tablets of deceased kings and queens are housed. According to Confusian beliefs, this shrine was built to the East of the Royal Palace (also built in 1395 - apparently, a big year for Seoul).
Gyeongbokgung PalaceWe had a great day touring and were able to do a bit of shopping at the market. We also had an (incredibly) authentic lunch that was perhaps a bit too authentic for most of us. As one would imagine, we did find some good beverage options.
beer = maekju
After a few long days, my friends Kelly and Christine and I wanted a nice relaxing evening at our hotel (Millennium Seoul Hilton). A girls night was definitely in order as we closed in on a week on the road. We enjoyed the complimentary lounge at the Hilton and had a good Italian dinner in the hotel. 

We topped off the night we a delicious cocktail, She's got Seoul - equal parts vodka and ginger ale, wedge of lemon and one ice cube. Seoul was great and after a few days we headed off to the highlight of the trip (for me), China!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

When in Taipei...

I feel like we said that phrase a lot...after a few days in Tokyo, our group headed to Taipei, Taiwan. We landed at Taipei Songshan Aiport, centrally located to downtown. Our hotel, the Grand Formosa Regent, was beautiful and was located in the heart of an expensive shopping district. Rain had picked up around our arrival time so my friend, Christine, and I decided to spend a little time at the hotel spa. Little did we realize that "spa time" really meant, "fully naked with a group of Taiwanese women time." The spa attendant (a rather stern old Taiwanese woman) using hand gestures, instructed us to strip down and get into the various baths. After jumping in and out of hot, mild, cool and cold water, we spent some time in the sauna and then in the relaxation room, sipping green tea.
Our time in Taiwan was definitely full of food and Taiwan Beer. The first night, we had a delicious dumpling dinner at Din Tai Fung.
The dumplings were all delicious, but one of my favorite parts of the meal was chilled cucumber in a chile oil. 
There is a right way to eat a dumpling.
This would our first visit to Din Tai Fung - the next would be in Shanghai. The second dinner I enjoyed in Taiwan was definitely authentic, and I shared it with an old friend from Hershey High! Jaren, a classmate from Hershey, is working in Taipei and we bumped into each other at the MBA fair. The world is so small! It was great to see him and hear about his adventures. We had a great dinner with some locals.

We selected fresh (some live) seafood outside of the restaurant and then the kitchen prepared the food for us. 

This guy was swimming around, until we got there.

Bamboo with a sweet mayo.
This meal is as authentic as it gets (I think). Our table was jam packed with interesting dishes - a few were just a little too out there for me, but all in all, a great experience. A group of us ended the long day with a visit to a massage parlor. The foot reflexology and shoulder massages were amazing and much needed. After enjoying, Taipei, we headed to Seoul, Korea. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

From Nashville to Tokyo and back again

The past few weeks have been full of flights, new food, new friends, Asian beer and lots of layovers. After 30 hours of travel, I returned home from Vietnam. My jet lag is pretty significant, but getting to enjoy an evening with my Vance definitely helps! August 27 kicked off my Asia tour, starting in Tokyo, then Taipei, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai and Vietnam. It was an amazing trip, and in an effort to help me remember where I went and to share with friends and family, I am going to dedicate various postings to my trip. First up, Tokyo!

Nashville to Chicago - one and a half hours. Three hour layover at O'Hare. Chicago to Narita airport - 11 hours. I arrived in Tokyo in the afternoon and took the Friendly Bus Airport Limousine to the Tokyo Hilton. I met up with my new friends Kelly and Christine for dinner. As a side note, I was a little stressed about getting from Narita to my hotel in central Tokyo, but this bus system is so straight forward. Flying into Narita is a pleasure! The staff at the airport and bus terminal are helpful, and they make sure you get on the right bus. For about $30 U.S. dollars, this is the way to travel. 
Kelly (from Pittsburgh) and Christine (from Minneapolis) and I walked around our hotel - located in the Shinjuku business district in Tokyo. Between the jet lag and overwhelming hunger, we ended up back at the Japanese Steak House in our hotel - Musashino.
Scallop, tuna and shrimp with caviar - first Japanese sushi and it did not dissapoint!
Our dinner was at a private hibachi table and consisted of a sushi course, soup, crunchy fish salad (the little buggers still had eyes and all), seaweed salad and then shrimp and Kobe beef hibachi with rice. It was a delicious (and expensive) welcome to Japan. One questionable part of the meal were little pieces of fat that were grilled for quite some time - those didn't go down so well. The next night, we had a group dinner at Oto Oto Restaurant. This multi-course meal is a bit of blur, but I do remember great tempura and even better beer. 
Adjusting to the time made enjoying Tokyo a bit of a challenge, but a group of us did get out to see some sights including Meiji Jingu shrine. The shrine is from the Meji Era (1865 - 1912) under Emperor Meji, a peaceful emperor who promoted friendship with foreign countries and cultural development. Unfortunately, the original shrine was destroyed in fires during during World War II. The reconstruction was completed in in 1958. 
When entering a shrine (in proper dress - "shrine shoulders"), rinse hands and face in the Temizusha (fountain above). I opted to just rinse hands, there are directions as to the proper rinsing procedure. En route to the shrine, there were lovely Japanese structures.

Sake rice wine barrels, given as a gift by sake brewers in Japan. The wine is used for shrine ceremonies and then the decorated barrels are put on display. 
The shrine, located in Meiji forest, is a peaceful and calming place within the chaos of Tokyo. I purchased a plaque to hang on a prayer tree. After the shrine, we headed to Takeshita Street, full of Japanese fashion and food. Definitely some really funky stuff down this little alley.

A few days in Tokyo is not nearly enough, but I really enjoyed this introduction to Asia. We headed to Haneda Airport and took the short flight to Taipei, Taiwan where more adventures (and an old friend) awaited me!
No matter how far you go, you'll most likely have access to Vogue and Starbucks.