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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Beginner Gardener

Living in the packed urban area of NYC especially in Manhattan it's hard to grow most anything. My mom decided to change that. She had some trimmings and bulbs and went to get a small long flower pot. Now they're growing pretty nicely. The tall ones are chili peppers and I'm not sure what the small bulbs are. We've tried many times to grow various plants outside on our window but they all tend to get lil bugs or they just don't thrive. Hopefully these will bloom and lil chilli peppers will come out. My mom doesn't want to eat the the peppers she just loves adding the color red to the home >_
Chibi Chive Garden Print @ LiPeony
I'm very sure a lot of people are doing their garden in the Spring and some are doing it right now. I decided it was perfect time to draw up little gardening prints. I've always loved watching people grabbing fresh herbs from their garden or the mini ones people have in their homes when watching cooking shows. Though it does look easy we've tried and no success and we definitely have no space. I'll be vending at Hester Street Fair on June 12th. So if you're in the neighborhood stop on by =D

Until next time... any tips on gardening and what's in your garden?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fluffy Sweets =D

Cotton Candy Balloon Bunny @ LiPeony
When it gets warmer around here I get a craving for cotton candy. Around the summer there are several small fairs and carnivals with rides for kids, games and lots and lots of food! Last weekend I went to the Hester Street Fair. It was small with about 20-30 vendors and most of it was food. There were also vintage and jewelry shops there. It was very windy when my sister and I went so there was tons of dust flying everywhere >=( . The neighborhood is very old and there's a library and the Fair took place in the large park. I'll be vending there June 12th 2010 so if you happen to be in the hood stop on by.

The most popular and well known vendor was from Luke's Lobster. I went to their store on E. 7th street and I must say the lobster rolls were delicious. The bread is awesome and they're not cheap on the lobster. There's less mayo then on some of the others that I tried which I prefer but they add this pinch of spices that I love. They also have this Maine root beer and the blueberry one was so refreshing! One thing is I didn't like the pickle which gave me a stomach ache =_=. Right afterward I went to watch Avatar in 3D so that was not a very good experience. I don't like or eat pickles in general. I was very impressed with the amount of baked goods and I brought some macaroons from Macaron Parlour. I got the Earl Grey and Smores macaroon and boy they were so so so good. It was slight crisp crunch and chewy. I was very surprised by the Earl Grey one because I'm not a fan of that variety of tea but as a macaroon I'd eat it any time =D. It also turns out that the weekend I went was also Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Bake for Hope Sale. I got some red velvet lollipops which are balls of red velvet dipped in white chocolate on a lollipop stick which were scrumptious!

Until next time... stay sweet sweet sweet! =D

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Intimate Look at NYC: Chinatown

My last post where I mentioned some hidden gems of Chinatown in NYC I decided to go out and take photos of the neighborhood. This will be the first of my Intimate Look series that I'll continue highlighting a different part of the place I know and love. Today we'll focus on Mott Street mostly the pictures will be on the markets of the street. Above is a picture of Mott st between Grand st. and Hester st. which is where most of the markets are concentrated and be warned it is usually very very very crowded. Few tourists groups go though here because of the human traffic but there is always people with cameras taking photos like me =p. Here's one of the many vegetable stands on this part of Mott st. everything is in boxes and shelves and you can find assorted varieties of vegetables and fruits that you may not be able to get elsewhere. Though they specialize in Asian veggies and fruits. Everything from the names (which are usually Chinese characters and may or may not have the correct English names) are on cardboard along with how much per pound or bundles. One thing is according to the season they have different vegetables and fruit but if you've never tried it before you should have a look out for durian: a rather spiky and pungent fruit (you're either going to hate it or love it), lychee (sweet small red spiky fruits: very sweet), longon (small round brown fruits that you peel off also very sweet), young coconut (very popular drink- mild coconut milk watery taste) and sometimes they have these weird fruits like starfruit (sweet and sometimes sour), sugar apples (does not look anything like an apple but the taste is sweet and sort of gritty) and hybrids.

Most of the time the stands consist of the inside goods and those displayed outside. Usually you can and have to pick your own veggies and fruits and give it to them to pound it. Most of the time they throw some more in or take some out to get it to the pound. Though sometimes they're nice and don't charge you if you get an extra couple of grapes or something. That's usually towards the closing time around 7pm-9pm when they want to get rid of the stock.

On veggie stands the boxes are usually transported from large buildings on the fringe of Chinatown at around 4-5am in the morning and trucked over or sometimes brought over by carts to the store fronts. I use to live next to one of these warehouses so it was quite annoying every single day >_>

If you notice an odor coming from the crowded streets its probably from the fish markets. They usually change the water and spill the water on the streets so watch out. Usually there are flopping live fish on the front so beware of fish water getting on you. There's tons of fish in the back and they scale it to you too or leave it alone. You basically point and sometimes they would put the fish on the front or show it closer to you in the net/bag to see it wriggling. That shows this fish was fresh and strong i.e. more fish meat to eat!

They also have other delicacies like eels and usually frogs. Though it may sound kind of nasty to eat frogs they're pretty common and does really taste like a lean chicken to me. When it's in season they have crabs and sometimes there's one or two feisty crabs that would get out of the bin and start running amok on the street until someone catches it.
Those are the two main types of stores on this small stretch of street but they also have dried goods stores. Like the one above most of the items are imported and consists of many dried goods. They can range from dried bean curd skin, scallops, dried fish, dried sea sponge, sea cucumbers various herbs and what not. You may also see dried hooves of animals, bones, cartilage and once I saw a dried armadillo. These are commonly used in the various soups that people make. Similar to how chicken soup is good for colds, there is a soup for everything in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). For example boiling fish bones along with the head and especially the eyes with whole bunch of tiny red beans is suppose to help with the health of the eyes or so that is what my family says.

Sometimes there's a TCM doctor there and they can give you info on the qualities and ideals behind the different dried goods. I'm not sure if there is a TCM doctor license but most of the remedies are passed down generations and part of medicinal traditions of the people. My grandfather is one of those "medicinal" advisers and is well versed in what does what so there's always a lot of dried goods at my home and pots of soup to boot. As for the actual medicinal value of all this ... I don't know =D
One thing people notice are the hanging ducks and chickens in front of many restaurants and "cold cut" (the meat is usually not cold but its hard to translate certain things. "Cold cuts" is normally the way I hear it being referred to) places. There are a lot of reviews on where to get the best what in NYC so I won't address that here. I mentioned it because when I was taking a picture of it, a person came up to me and said "it's only hanging ducks." I said "yeah I know." In fact going around with a camera taking pictures I notice people looking at me because they assume I was a tourist.

Here's a little rundown on what's on that particular area. I'll continue with some Intimate Look at NYC. If you stop by NYC don't stick to the beaten path and look for the small gems =D Hope you enjoyed this post because I enjoyed sharing this part of the world with you =)

Until next time... don't be afraid to explore!

NYC Chinatown Site dedicated to Awareness and Promotion of Business in the Area
Chinatown-online - sort of yellow pages for Chinatown NYC

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sweet Cold Tofu Treat

Okay it's getting hot and humid and the long dog days of summer are about to be upon us. Though ice cream is the one thing I love during the summer another great cold treat is something called "Tofu Flower" (Tofu fa) It's basically very smooth silken tofu in a sweet ginger sugar syrup. Normally they have this during dim sum hours and you really can't miss the cart. It's inside this huge rice cooker like steamer and if you're not quick it'll be all gone. They only seem to have a set amount so if you snooze you lose. Oh you can ask for more sugar syrup though sometimes they can get a bit cranky for giving it out =P

The tofu is very very smooth and can be served hot or cold. The intensity of the ginger syrup or sometimes sugar cane syrup can differ. I like mine light. Frankly the best places to get these tofu flower is from the street vendors or the old mom and pop shops that exclusive deal in tofu and the like. One of my favorite is a small hole in the wall on Grand Street crossing Bowery Street in Chinatown NYC. The food is very good and they've been there for years. Definitely got to try the bottled soy bean milk (sweetened) and the herbal tea drink. They're around 75 cents a good bottle. Seriously cannot get this stuff any cheaper in NYC. Though around rush hour and hot days and weekends they have a long line and run out of things quick >_<.

There use to be many places that specialize in tofu and fresh cooked noodles and lo mein cooked right on the spot. A few good ones remain like the one I mentioned above and another on Mott street across the street from the bubble tea places. I'll try to get photos and actual cards of the place so if you ever visit NYC you should go to these hidden gems. They sometimes seem a bit dingy and unkempt but the food is generally cheaper and tastes much better then the fast processed food at large restaurants.

As for people who cannot readily get it. I think there are ready or almost ready made packages of tofu flower in stores but it's going to be hard to find unless there's an Asian specialty store somewhere.

Until next time... what kind of desserts do you cool down with?