27 January 2012

Curry On Wheels

SP and I trudged out into the snow (yes! First snow of the year! First snow since Halloween!) on the 21st to get lunch at a food truck, and we ended up going to Curry On Wheels, because
1. Koja wasn't open (this is turning into a running joke...it's never open when we go there)
2. Kim's wasn't open

I wasn't physically hungry (if I'm emotionally satisfied, I don't need food!) but curry is mostly always delicious. I got the Mallie Kofta Curry (vegetable curry with cheese croquettes), while SP got chicken tikka masala. The onion and sauce in the chicken tikka masala was really delicious ("medium" spicyness).

Although I also asked for "medium" spicyness, the kofta curry was like fire! Maybe I just haven't had spicy food in a while, but in order to consume that curry, I had a rice:curry weight ratio of 1:0.22 (something like that). It was still delicious, though. The cheese croquettes were a bit disappointing because there was no cheese taste, at all.
 Here is a "fully formed" cheese croquette. Note its lack of form and lack of cheese. :(

20 January 2012

Bell Pepper & Tofu Sandwiches

 Red and orange bell peppers, marinated spicy tofu, barbecue chips, on multigrain whole wheat toast.

19 January 2012

The Darkroom Cafe (Part 2)

I have one of the most fantastic jobs ever. I work at the Darkroom Cafe in the basement of my dorm house, and although I had weird hours last semester, I really enjoyed it, and now, with much more respectable hours (Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights), I'm quite excited for this semester! In retrospect, I definitely over-worked myself last semester (11.5 hours/week, coupled with other things, caused serious time management issues), but this semester, I'm sure that I can handle my 7.5 hours/week. As none of my classes start before 9:30am and I don't have morning shifts, I should be able to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night (which would be great!!)
Working at the Darkroom Cafe is not like working at a chain cafe -- actually, I wouldn't know for sure, but here are some things to chew on, and these are what make my job fun:
1. I'm working right now, but as there is dearth of customers at this early hour (10 pm), I'm typing here instead.
2. I can use my laptop at work!
3. No company aprons, no uniforms, no hats.
4. I do composting!
5. I meet people! And I know their names! Sorta! And we talk about hair dye, classes, and cultural stuff!
6. The cafe always smells great, especially if I'm sitting right next to the pastries.
7. I can spam my dorm house emailing list!

Here is a vapid image of a croissant that is sitting next to me, thrown onto a white pixel-filled rectangle. I don't think that this is meaningful, and I don't like having plastic wrapped around croissants.

I also found out exactly where Le Bus Bakery is located -- in Reading Terminal Market! Though, we only sell about five items from their menu, none of which I love. I kind of wish we sold cookies and pie (my favourite generic desserts, possibly?)

Hours for this semester:
Sunday: 9 pm-1 am
Monday & Thursday: 8:30 am-10 am & 9 pm-1 am
Tuesday & Wednesday: 8:30 am-10 am & 11 pm-1 am

16 January 2012

PennApps Hackathon Spring 2012

Stuff I ate at PennApps (more than this but I didn't take pictures of everything) -- free:
Curry, paneer, rice, vegetables
Chocolate Insomnia cookie
2 slices of vegetable pizza
Falafel, hummus, pita bread
1.5 bagels. Full boxes of bagels. 2X as many bagels remained after the event was over.
3 bubble teas
3 Jimmy John's sandwiches
2 goat cheese/spinach/tomato sandwiches, with tomato/tofu salad.

11 January 2012


A drink I've since associated with PL because she brought it to middle school one day, Ramune never ceases to amaze me. I've never personally bought it, though, because it's just a carbonated drink with a cool marble in the bottle...I had no emotional attachment to it. Now, however, I'll probably always think of the time SP bought two glass bottles of Ramune (he got Lychee flavour, I got Green Apple) from a small Chinese snack shop in Chinatown, from a fridge with the door handle on the left side, and then of us walking to the Liberty Bell, finding no line, passing by Security, SP tying his shoelace, and then opening Ramune on a bench on 5th and Market St, in the cold, and laughing as his bottle of Ramune overflowed.
Then SP recycled his empty glass bottle at the Visitor Center, but I kept mine. He carried it in my drawstring bag and when we walked to Penn's Landing, and then to dinner, and then back to Penn's campus, the marble would clang against the bottle.
 SP demonstrating the proper technique in pushing the marble down. Both the flavours were typical and pleasant, and the internet says that Octopus and Wasabi flavours also exist, so I'd like to try those one day too. I mean, fizzy wasabi?! Amazing!
  Empty bottle, skewing up my Avenged Sevenfold poster.
Note the marble. If this fun bottle is a motive for kids to buy carbonated sugar water, why not put milk into these bottles? Or, for more shelf-stability, juice? Carrot juice? ...I should start a business.

10 January 2012

2 Days in Philadelphia

I hung out for 2 days with SP before the semester begins (tomorrow)! We ate a bunch of food (no surprises there...):

1. Falafel food truck on 35th and Market St.
Thought I had escaped from rice since I'm not going to be home until at least March. Guess I was wrong. At least it isn't plain ol' steamed white rice (actually, the older I get, the more and more I appreciate eating plain ol' rice. Maybe it's because I have just grown to love food/carbohydrates, in general).
The falafel was kinda dry and crumbly and uniform in texture.

2. Ramune (Japanese drink with the marble that seals it until you push it down).

3. Singapore Chinese Vegetarian Restaurant 1029 Race St. (six stars out of five)
 Dim lighting (how utterly romantic!), cool tablecloth*, light green tea, and multiple utensils (fork, spoon, and chopsticks that seemed to be made out of a really absorbent wood). When passing me a fork, the owner (?) of the restaurant jokingly asked me, "Do you know how to use this?", and I replied "I'll try...he'll teach me [referring to SP]." (because SP isn't ethnically Chinese, but I am). Since moving to the US over five years ago, I've used chopsticks maybe 20 times in total, usually at restaurants that don't offer alternatives. My favourite eating utensil is probably the metal teaspoon.
 Stuffed tofu with amazing chunky ginger-peanut sauce. Dude. I could drink this sauce! I realise that I would probably be terrible at getting a guy via a dinner date. Especially with the picture-taking and my indecision. Particularly if there is a vegetarian menu with sections labelled "Beef", "Poultry", "Pork", and "Tofu" (all made with soy or gluten, of course).
 VEGGIES!! I am going to make stuffed tofu one day. I think they stuff the tofu AFTER stir-frying it, else the veggies would fall out.
 We also got dumplings. I want to drag SP here for dim sum one day, just because I love dim sum, and every time my family and I go to some dim sum place, most of the stuff has animal pieces. I didn't particularly love the dumplings because the filling was kinda mushy, and there was a lot of extra space inside the dumpling. SP liked them though.
 SP got a curry hotpot, and the veggies at the bottom were still tongue-burning-hot by the time the meal was over. It was pretty amazing, although I got my tongue burned a bit. I was going to get curry with gluten (read on the menu as "Curry with Beef") but I ended up getting Crispy Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs (gluten). I was debating between that and Sweet and Sour Pork Loin (soy), but the owner (?) recommended the gluten, so I got it. I mean, what do vegetarian chefs substitute animal bones with, right?
The sauce was really sweet. There were chunks of pineapple, tomato, pepper, carrot, and broccoli in the dish. I'm glad that this restaurant uses sundry vegetables in all its dishes (unlike other Chinese restaurants that pair broccoli with EVERYTHING) -- well, duh, it's a vegetarian restaurant.
The gluten ball tasted a bit like potato, a bit like gluten, and sort of had the appearance and texture of pig flesh. It obviously didn't taste like pig flesh. The sauce masked everything, though, which was neat. I'm going to believe that the "bone" part is just a potato fry, because that's what it tasted like. It was odd chewing the "bone". Seriously. It's like having an edible popsicle stick.
Note the brown rice.

At the end, we got 2 orange slices, 2 fortune cookies (grr) and 2 fried sesame balls with custard filling. My fortune was "The weather is nice". Great.
I think that for a sit-in vegetarian restaurant in the city, the meal was reasonably priced. With presumably fresh ingredients and a lot of veggies in the dishes, dim sum at night-time, a regular customer sitting in the corner reading a book (who ate a meal and also ordered take-out before leaving), and pretty tablecloths*, Singapore Chinese Vegetarian Restaurant is quite charming. SO BRING YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER(S) THERE!

*In looking at pictures of this restaurant online, I realised that they also have pink tablecloths. I prefer the paisley blue ones more)

4. Lotte Koala's March (cookies) - not a huge fan of them but SP loves them.

5. Lovash Indian Cuisine on 37th and Spruce St.

 More rice (long grain, rather cold -- but that may have been due to the weather, but the peas and paneer cheese were still warm). Some of the peas were still a bit hard, which means that they use dried peas, and not frozen ones. I love frozen peas and frozen corn. I eat frozen corn while it's still frozen, and I intend to do that with peas too, in the future (for other frozen things I eat, read here). The panner was less plasticky/smooth compared to paneer I've had before, and I'm not sure if that makes it more/less authentic.
 SP got chicken with something...It looked good because it was in a plastic container while mine was in a styrofoam one.

6. The Crepewalk, 36th and Spruce
Nutella crepe. Obviously better than the crepes that I made (which SP said were too thick). These are pretty much translucent!

08 January 2012

Ginger Pepper Coconut Cakies

Today, the kitchen is overwhelmingly nutmeggy. Urg. I'm not sure why I dislike the sweet smell/taste of nutmeg. I was going to make gingersnaps but we don't have molasses. We've never bought molasses before...so instead, I sort of invented ginger pepper cookies/cakies, which I am sure exist elsewhere in the world. They look more like mini scones/cakes than cookies, mainly because I did the whole orange juice citric acid+baking soda thing again. Using this recipe as a basis, I flung around ingredients and burned down the kitchen. Luckily, I am going back to UPenn today, so I'll have somewhere to live while my family live in a kitchen-less house. Just kidding, I'm not Chowder. But we did have a 90 minute power outage yesterday.

They are cakey, slightly gingery, are a bit moist and textured due to the whole wheat flour and coconut, and lack crunch and buttery-ness. Not gingersnaps at all...more like a spice cake?
INGREDIENTS --makes 25 pretty big cakey cookies.
75g white sugar
75 g brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 egg
3 tbsp orange juice

some cinnamon
some nutmeg (I put in 1 tbsp, which was too much, as I'm not a fan of nutmeg).
some tablespoons of ginger powder
some tablespoons of ground black pepper (add dried chili flakes if you want?)
300 g whole wheat flour
50 g dried coconut (I used unsweetened, local)

1 tbsp baking soda

1. Cream sugars and butter. Throw in the egg and orange juice.
2. Add the dry ingredients, ~80 g at a time. Fold.
3. Add the baking soda. Fold.
4. Scoop onto pan-greased-with-butter-wrapper.
5. Bake at 350 F in an un-preheated oven for 15 minutes on the middle rack. Let sit for about 10 minutes, or more. Just keep checking with your fork (it should come out clean, and the cookie should look solid).

07 January 2012

Hot Chocolate

Being increasingly upset with the concept of "instant hot chocolate", I showed my brother and sister that it is perfectly simple to make hot chocolate from unsweetened cocoa powder and sugar (and vanilla, cinnamon sugar, nutmeg, and whatever else). We rarely buy single-serving packaged hot chocolate, but I feel unhappy knowing that THAT STUFF GETS SOLD, and people LOVE IT! It's not my business to poke my spoon into other people's mugs, but I don't understand why one'd shell out more money than necessary for mugs of mediocre -- six packets (packaged in a neat box, which may or may not be wrapped in plastic) of mostly sugar, a tiny scoop of cocoa powder, some sort of creamer, partially hydrogenated oil, flavouring, FD&C Yellow #5, and caramel flavouring. 

"But, but, but, my method is convenient too!", I whine, with pearly tears gushing down my face. "And my hot chocolate's packaging is recyclable, unlike the foil-and-paper-blend wrapper that most companies use!"

So, here's something that's intensely bitter-chocolatey (whoo!) or super sweet (if you're my sister), depending on your preferences, gives you 8 g of protein, and doesn't take much time at all! No stoves! If an 8 year-old enfant gâté [read: spoiled brat] can do it, so can you (yes, even the time-deprived and sleep-deprived college students)!

Ingredients -- for a mugful
1. UNSWEETENED cocoa powder
2. Sugar (or honey/molasses/aspartame/candy)
3. Water (preferably at room temperature)
4. Fat-free milk! (preferably at room temperature)
5. Flavourings/garnishes -- vanilla, cinnamon sugar, coffee powder, nutmeg, chilies, marshmallows, pudding...
1. Add 1-3 tsp cocoa powder and 1-3 tsp sugar. Add flavourings. I would prefer 2-3 tsp cocoa powder and 1 tsp sugar... but my sister would honestly just want a pinch of cocoa powder and some 50 g of sugar.
2. Add enough room temperature water to submerge the solids, microwave for 30 s, and stir.
3. Add room temperature milk until your mug is 6/7 full. I don't want to add more because I'm scared that things will explode in my microwave.
4. Microwave for 50 s. Stir. Repeat until your hot chocolate is hot!
5. Add garnishes. We added ice cream and coloured marshmallows.
Actually, if you really wanted to, you could eat half a canister of unsweetened cocoa powder (bake with it, make pancakes with it, mix it with peanut butter etc.) and then pour sugar into the canister's remaining space. Now, you have enough hot chocolate mix to last a winter. Or just the finals season.

While my brother and I were enjoying our cocoa-studded hot chocolates, my sister was complaining that we don't have whipped cream in the house, and that the hot chocolate at the Diner is so much better. She was on the verge of shooting out those irksome tears. I sometimes wish that she understood that when my brother and I were her age, we didn't have hot chocolate in the house. We didn't have an oven or a microwave! I didn't even know what cinnamon was!

06 January 2012

Chocolate Star Cakes!

I sort of followed my Victoria sandwich cake recipe but also sort of made up my own ratios of ingredients because I wanted to use up the orange juice (~0.5 L left now--last night my brother and I had orange juice with seltzer water. It was pretty neat).

I could actually make a Swiss roll with this sheet of cake, but I figured stars would be more photogenic. I've just proven to myself that my cookie pan can double as a cake pan...
INGREDIENTS (2 20-cm rounds, or 1 huge cookie pan)
200-250 g caster/granulated sugar (your choice)
250 g unsalted butter - keep the butter wrappers!!
2 eggs
120 ml orange juice

>50 g unsweetened cocoa powder
150 g self-raising white flour
50 g whole-wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda

I initially added the orange juice to make an orange flavoured cake. However, I should either grate in some orange rinds, or just not use any cocoa powder because the chocolate makes the orange flavour barely noticeable. However, the orange juice and the baking soda react (acid/base) extremely neatly, to create this super moist and crumbly cake!

1. Cream sugar and butter.
2. Beat eggs, add eggs to creamed sugar/butter and stir. Add in orange juice. You will have something resembling puke (but yellow). It is COMPLETELY OKAY if there are lumps of butter in the batter.
3. Sift in cocoa powder and half of the flour. FOLD! (figure 8).  This will not look pretty.
4. Sift in the rest of the flour and the baking soda. Fold a little more!
5. Pour onto a pan greased with the butter wrapper.
6. Spread evenly.
7. Bake for 16-18 minutes on the bottom rack of an oven at 350 F or 180 C. Let sit in oven for 10 minutes. Then, open oven, poke a fork into the center, and see if it comes out clean. If it does, it's/you're all set!
8. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter or just eat it. It turns out that cutting cake with a cookie cutter leaves loads of crumbs.

05 January 2012

Orange Rock Cakes!

I don't know about you, but rock cakes were well-established in my childhood.  I knew what they were, like I knew of the existence of pancakes. I assumed that everyone had seen/eaten a rock cake before, especially with the popularity of the Harry Potter series. I made them in Food Tech, and I remember that my partner and I ended up with the honey version of the recipe, and our rock cakes were too doughy and bland. Other groups had varying amounts of sugar, and we all tried to get chunks from the group that made rock cakes with the highest ratio of sugar. I think that Ms. Revans was trying to teach us that we could vary sugar content to make healthier foods, but I don't think the message sunk in. I never used to be obsessed with food. Maybe it should've stayed that way.
THE KITCHEN SMELLS AMAZING! If I could capture smells for my blog, I'd have you room smelling like sweet, buttery dough right now. It's a distinct orange-rock-cake smell, highly unlike the aroma of chocolate chip cookies, and definitely distinct from the whiff of orange cake.

I got my rock cake recipe from Baking for Britain. I've been meaning to try this recipe for at least 2 (?) years, and today, because I wanted to make something British (to remind me of the lack of Britishness in New Jersey), I settled on this. AND NOW I HAVE A FRAGRANT KITCHEN!

The changes I made were:
1. Whole wheat flour instead of white flour
2. 50 g sugar instead of 75 g 
3. Raisins instead of candied peel and rind, because I didn't want to use an orange
4. Orange juice instead of an orange because the 2.84 L bottle expires in a month (we have 1.5 L left)
5. Baking time of 11 minutes at 350 F/180 C in an unpreheated oven on the lower shelf and then leaving the rock cakes in the oven (off) for some 30 minutes.

I remarked that one tablespoon of orange juice really DOES make a difference to the consistency of the dough. Before I put in the last tablespoon, the dough was slightly crumbly and dry. After merely ONE tablespoon of juice, the dough was gooey-er and stuck better together. Also, per usual for the winter, there were lumps of butter in the dough. This isn't a big deal, though, because [next part is highly unscientific and is highly speculated] when the rock cake is baking, the butter will melt and all that liquid will infiltrate the flour-y parts, so the end result is still a rock cake. When I was scooping the dough onto the pan, it smelled just like the rock cakes I made in Food Tech. I'm not really sure when else I've consumed rock cakes, but I know I definitely have, several times in my life.
They taste crunchy the way a rock cake should, yet have a springy, barely-moist center, have a great texture due to the whole wheat flour, aren't too sweet (the raisins add a nice touch), and are, as Baking for Britain says, "craggy".

25 (24 pictured, since I had already eaten one...) rock cakes that *drumroll* rock!

UPDATE:: 6 Jan 2012: Made two more batches of these because my mum loves them. Also, squeezing 1.8 batches onto that cookie pan above actually works! (The dough doesn't expand).

04 January 2012


Today I found out that I am bad at flipping crêpes. Here is a picture of a crêpe with a rip in it, beneath the fold.
I got a French crêpe recipe from here (it's in French--my French is useful! Okay, I could've used Google Translate, but it has glitches-- it translated "1 tbsp butter" to "1 cup butter")! I made about 6 pan-sized crêpes from the recipe. Crêpes are really thin.

I used whole wheat flour, which I guess isn't traditional... but oh well.
My first problem was that the butter wouldn't melt when I was mixing the batter. Well, duh, it's something like 15 degrees C in the house! So, I ended up having really gloopy batter, but the crêpes turned out intact.
 Another problem was that I would flip the crêpes over before the bottom side had been thoroughly cooked, and I couldn't flip the crêpes correctly with my spatula. I'm sure there is a more efficient way of making crêpes...but no one has ever taught me. I ended up picking up opposite edges of the crêpe with my fingers (hot? No...compared to fresh coffee, not really) and the spatula, and somehow maneuvering it some 180 degrees.
Taste? Well, nothing burned, the crêpes were moist, milky, soft, and gooey and... crêpe-like (yes, they tasted like crêpes! Except, chewier due to the whole-wheat flour). They were more oily than I would've liked... I guess I should use melted butter next time (but I hate the smell of microwaved butter)? They were a tiny bit sweet, which I have a problem with; I guess I would just prefer to have really sweet crêpes, or non-sweet crêpes. Eating tiny-bit-sweet-crêpes is like drinking water with a tiny bit of sugar - not plain ol' thirst-quenching, and not delicious-sugary-drink either.

Maybe I just prefer the pancakes that I used to eat in Australia? I don't even know how those were made, but they were poofy (not American pancake poofy, though), dark brown, the size of a coaster, and full of holes on one side.