Week Three of AAPI Heritage Month: Szechuan Cooking

I’m so excited to share about Szechuan cooking. My sister and I dined at a new restaurant called SXY Szechuan. Prior to ordering, the chef and owner of the restaurant shared about Szechuan cooking. Szechuan, also spelt in multiple ways, comes from southwestern China and is known for the dishes to be spicy. Though, she said the chefs will make the dishes milder if one cannot eat spicy foods.

My sis and I were a bit overwhelmed by the menu, as we weren’t familiar with the dishes and the cuisine itself. Thank goodness for pictures as we browsed the menu. We decided to order tofu and vegetable soup, fried lamb BBQ, and mung bean jelly noodles with chili sauce. The mung beans looked the most interesting. I’ve heard of mung beans before in Korean facial products, but have never seen what they looked like.

The food was delicious! The soup was very simple, yet, it was soothing and comforting. The fried lamb resembled an Indian and Mediterranean dish because of all the herbs sprinkled on the lamb. And last, the mung bean noodles… They looked very intriguing. They were really good! That chili sauce was mild, and so tasty! I don’t recall the mung bean noodles having any taste. It literally felt like I was eating jellied noodles. We enjoyed the food very much. I can’t wait to go back to try more dishes.

Speaking of AAPI Heritage Month, I want to highlight the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved” trilogy movies on Netflix. I finally watched them and listened to the audiobooks within one week! Yes! And OMG! Why did I wait this long to listen to the stories and watch the movies?! I absolutely LOVED the story! The audiobook was a “page-turner.” It was funny, quirky, cute, and romantic- all in one! It was fabulous. It brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. The story took me back to my HS days and my HS BF. Lara Jean and Peter’s love story is so sweet. I love both characters, especially Peter’s. He has grown so much over the last three books and it was great to experience his tremendous love for Lara Jean. So, so cute. There were a lot of differences between the books and movies, but the overall concept of the story was the same, which made me happy. These movies and books have been added to my all-time fave list.

I would like to also mention that May is mental health awareness month. Freshly, I’ve developed a deep passion for mental health advocacy and have been learning about ways I could become more involved in the mental health community. Taking care of our mental health is so important and we need to vocalize that mental health matters. More people need to be educated, open, and willing to share that mental health shouldn’t be shunned and hidden. The stigma needs to end. It’s ok to talk about it; to be open, and to receive help. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I give huge kudos to those who aren’t ashamed and seek treatment. It’s the way to move forward and to feel better. And that’s important above all else. Why live in darkness and in pain? There’s a bright world out there, waiting for us to shine. Don’t let mental health define and consume you.

Keep safe; take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Be proud of who you are.

In love,

FS x

Happy Mama’s Day! Week Two of AAPI Heritage Month: Japanese Cuisine

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts! I hope your weekend is filled with love, relaxation, joy, and laughter. You are appreciated. Your sacrifice, hard work, unwavering love, support, encouragement, and understanding means the world. Thank you!

Every year, I cook dinner for all my mother-figures in my family. This weekend, as we continue celebrating Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I made an Asian curried ground turkey stew (featured image), which turned out to be more like soup. Nonetheless, it was scrumptious. I’m sure it’ll taste even more delicious after all the ingredients have soaked into the broth over the last couple days. I’ve learned that it’s best to make the dishes ahead of time so they have time to marinate in their sauces and seasonings. The dishes are a lot more tastier a few days later. Here are the ingredients I used:

  • Pepper
  • Garlic pepper
  • Dried garlic flakes
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Homemade curry powder
    • Cumin
    • Coriander
    • Ground ginger
    • Mustard seed
    • Red pepper flakes
    • Turmeric
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Shoyu (soy suace)
  • White vinegar
  • Chicken stock
  • Bay leaves
  • Whole wheat flour (to thicken the sauce)
  • Ground turkey
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Lentils
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Okinawan sweet potatoes

I love cooking. But cooking for a heartwarming purpose, like Mother’s Day, is exhilarating for me. I love putting all my heart and soul into my cooking. Cooking with love is the best!

“To the world you are a mother. To our family, you are the world.” ~Unknown

In joy,

FS x

Week One of Asian-American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Thai Cuisine

Happy belated May/Lei Day, and Happy AAPI Heritage Month! So grateful to have this entire month dedicated to us!

I’ve included some links to learn more about the AAPI legacy:

Each week during the month of May, we’ll highlight on a dish of Asian or Pacific Islander cuisine. I’m excited to share about the various dishes I love throughout this month.

This week, our featured dish is Thai cuisine. It’s one of my favorite Asian foods. I love this new restaurant in Kaimukī called Red Elephant Thai Cuisine. Their food is excellent. The server shared that the food is considered to be authentic to the food cooked and eaten in Thailand.

Over the weekend, my friends and I had a marvelous dinner at Red Elephant. We sat in their outdoor section of the restaurant, which is featured in the picture collage. Their outdoor atmosphere is beautiful and tranquil both in the daytime and nighttime. I love sitting out there. We were entertained by a talented pianist while enjoying our dinner. Everything about that night was spectacular. We laughed and enjoyed each others’ company. The food was delicious. It was a wonderful reunion.

Prior to dinner, we attended our late friend’s celebration of life service. I had shared in a prior blog post that one of my girlfriends unexpectedly passed a couple months ago. It was shocking to all who knew her… The service was a lovely tribute to remember and honor her life. There were lots of tears and laughter, and reminiscing about the fabulous person she was to those who had known her. She will be dearly missed. I hope she is resting in love, happiness, and peace, and watching over us. My main takeaway from this experience is to live life to the fullest. Be the best version of yourself; be kind and loving to those around you, and have faith in everything you do.

I have so many favorite Thai dishes from Red Elephant, and overall. I didn’t present them all. The dishes featured in the collage are: yellow curry with sticky rice, tom yum (hot and sour lemongrass) soup, and green papaya salad. These photos were taken when I dined there with my sister.

This weekend, my friends and I ate: red curry with sticky rice, tom yum soup, spring rolls, and pad see lew (stir fry with noodles). We loved all these dishes. Yum!

The go-to dish I must order at any Thai restaurant is the tom yum soup. It is a breath of fresh air. I love the spiciness and sourness. The broth is so tasty. I always get excited when I see tom yum soup packets and flavored snacks at the store.

Check out Red Elephant Thai Cuisine:

3196 Wai’alae Ave.
Honolulu, 96816
808-732-5461
https://www.redelephantthaicuisine.com/

Peace,

FS x

Hearty and satisfying. It’s mmm, mmm, good!

Annyeong haseyo! “Hello” in Korean.

We’re approaching the end of April and heading into May. We’re inching closer and closer to mid-year. A lot has occurred this year and sometimes it feels like a continuation of last year. However, I continue looking forward and focusing on the light that’s ahead. Focus on the positive and not dwell on the negative. Things are improving whilst in this pandemic. “April showers bring May flowers.”

This week’s featured dish is one my favorite Korean dishes, soft tofu stew, or kimchi soondubu jjigae. I HEART this soup/stew. I love tofu, especially soft tofu. And the tofu in this soup/stew is extremely soft. It hits the spot every time. Oh, and that soup base- it’s so good! It’s the fish-base that makes the broth so tasty.

One of my favorite things about Korean food is dining at all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ restaurants. Cooking your meal amongst great company is the best! And eating the yummy food with others is simply fabulous. Korean BBQ always makes me excited. I love the meats- the kalbi and beef tongue are my faves. I look forward to the side dishes, such as the various types of kimchi, and finally, that tofu stew. Mmm, mmm! It’s a hearty and satisfying meal, every.single.time!

I found this recipe: https://www.koreanbapsang.com/kimchi-soondubu-jjigae-soft-tofu-stew-kimchi/. Looks simple and delish to make at home.

Make the most of April. May is coming. More sunshine and flowers to look forward to.

Jal Itsuh (“Be well”),

FS x

Local Kine Grindz

This week, we’re exploring the local grinds on the island of Maui, one of my favorite islands away from home. Maui holds a special place in my heart because my mom was from there. I have lovely memories staying at my maternal grandparents’ house in Wailuku and visiting with relatives whenever I’d visit. As a child, we got our second dog from Maui. His name was Charlie. Boy, was he a menace. But he was a good watch dog. Always protecting us and our family home.

Several years ago, I got to try the famous Sam Sato’s in Wailuku. It’s a small, family-owned business. The restaurant gets pretty crowded, but the wait is worth it. They’re known for their dried noodles. This week’s featured image has a variety of popular dishes from Sam Sato’s: dried noodles, saimin (similar to ramen), cheeseburger, and BBQ beef stick. Can I say, ahhh-mazing? Loved all the food. It was so yummy. It hit the spot.

These days when I visit Maui, I like to play tourist. My favorite places to visit are:

  • Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
    • It’s a beautiful and peaceful place, full of zen and nature.
  • Maui Ocean Center
    • I always love going to an aquarium.
  • MauiWine
    • Mmm, wine! Can you say wino? MauiWine is not too far from the lavender farm.
  • Sightseeing in Lāhainā/Front Street
    • I love Lāhainā and walking through Front Street. I love seeing the largest Banyan tree in the U.S.
  • Tasaka Guri Guri
    • My childhood favorite snack. This is a must have every time I visit. Guri guri is a dessert that’s between an ice cream and sherbet. Tasaka’s has two flavors: strawberry and pineapple. Both are quenching, but my favorite is the strawberry. Strawberry, all the way!
  • Whaler’s Village
    • A beautiful shopping mall in Lāhainā, with yummy restaurants, like Leilani’s on the Beach. Have a meal and a drink while watching the sunset fronting the beach.

My friend and her family recently visited Maui and told me about her visit to the goat farm. She shared how fun it was. That’s on my travel list the next time I’m in town again. Surfing Goat Dairy|Maui Goat Farm. I LOVE goat cheese and can’t wait to try them fresh. Yum!

Next time you’re in Maui, visit all these cool places, including Sam Sato’s:

1750 Wili Pa Loop
Wailuku, 96793
808-244-7124

Travel safely! Wear your mask!

FS x

Easter Genesis

Happy Easter and Resurrection Day! May your Easter weekend be filled with love, peace, happiness, and many blessings, today and always.

Did you know that pink is one of the colors of Easter? My favorite color as well. According to a Southern Living article (2019), pink represents hope and brand new beginnings. Perfect for the my mindset this Easter and spring season.

This year, I’ve added spring to my favorite seasons. I had an “aha” moment. We are generously given so many opportunities to “start over” and live a new life every day. Leave the past behind and continue moving forward as we learn from our mistakes and make better choices the next day. We proceed with perseverance and stay the course on this journey of life. Literally, we have a fresh pristine start every single day. Others believe that every January 1st is a fresh start as we ring in the new year. Furthermore, some believe that the new year truly begins on the Lunar New Year, which varies from year to year. A new year can also begin during the spring season and on Easter Day.

I’ve been reminded to be kind to myself and take things day by day. As New Year’s Day 2021 approached, many of us hoped and wished for a better year as the clock struck midnight. Lunar New Year came and we had those same wishes for the Year of the Ox. Now that spring has begun, I’ve learned to appreciate new life, more sunshine, and fresh beginnings. And today, on Easter Day, it feels like a new dawn all over again.

2020 was a tough year for many of us. Just the same, some of us still feel like we’re living in 2020, a year later. Still feels like Groundhog Day in some sense. I’ve experienced periods of that this year. We’re 1/3 into 2021. The year is far from over yet. I’m still believing for an exceedingly superb year. Let the rebirth begin!

One of the traditional dishes eaten during the Easter holiday is lamb, which is this week’s featured dish. According to Waring (2018), the people of Egypt experienced horrendous sickness and mourned the deaths of their firstborn sons. Therefore, the Hebrew community covered their doors with the sacrificed lamb’s blood so that God would “pass over” their homes. Hence, the meaning of Passover. As Christianity emerged, those newly converted passed on the tradition of eating lamb. Christians also refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God, as He sacrificed himself to die for all of humanity. John 1:29 in the New American Standard Bible states, “behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Lamb is my ultimate favorite red meat. I love its gamey and distinctive taste. It’s unlike other types of meat, which makes it so unique, delicious, and special.

Cheers to a wonderful Easter season. Continue believing and hoping for all good things. That is my prayer every day for this world.

In peace,

FS x

References

New American Standard Bible. (2020). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+1.29&version=NASB

Southern Living. (2019). The real meanings behind the colors of Easter. https://www.southernliving.com/easter/easter-colors

Waring, O. (2018). Why do we eat lamb at Easter? https://metro.co.uk/2018/03/29/eat-lamb-easter-7426513/

Wear Green; Don’t Get Pinched!

Happy Belated St. Patrick’s Day! I hope everyone had a safe and fun celebration despite us still being in a pandemic. The pandemic in Hawai’i is improving. Bars recently have gotten the green light to reopen again. Of course, with precautions and abiding by CDC guidelines. We have a few Irish pubs in the downtown/Chinatown area that were happy to open in time for St. Patty’s Day.

It’s tradition in my family to eat fresh corned beef and cabbage (see featured image), plus carrots and potatoes during the week of St. Patty’s Day. Yum! My dad makes the best Irish meal. I always look forward to eating this. It’s so delicious! I love drizzling mustard all over my dish. Perfecto!

In an article I read on Martha Stewart’s website, the Irish actually eat bacon (aka ham) and cabbage (Vaughn, 2020). Corned beef became a popular ingredient to this staple dish because it was cheaper than bacon back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the Irish came to America (Vaughn, 2020). Very logical. Well, I’d take fresh corned beef over ham. I’m not so much of a ham and pork person.

I wear green on March 17th to avoid getting pinched. I also have shamrock earrings and a necklace that I’m always excited to sport during this time of year. It’s said that leprechauns are a reason why people wear green on St. Patty’s (Davidson, n.d.). The tradition says wearing green makes you undetectable to the leprechauns, as they like to pinch anyone they can see (Davidson, n.d.). Those rascals! Some people believe the color green will bring good luck, while others wear it pay tribute to their Irish heritage (Davidson, n.d.).

Happy Spring! May this season blossom with new beginnings, new goals, new dreams, and new life.

Bloom where you’re planted,

FS x

References:

Davidson, R. (n.d.). St. Patrick’s day. https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/celebrations/article/st-patricks-day

Vaughn, K. (2020). How corned beef and cabbage became a St. Patrick’s day staple. https://www.marthastewart.com/7690010/corned-beef-cabbage-st-patricks-day-history

Happy Pi 𝝿 Day, 03/14!

Today, we’re featuring a ground turkey pot pie (see image) to celebrate 𝜋 day! Pi, a mathematical term, is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159, or 3.14, as most commonly known.

Did you know that pi has been computed to over one trillion numbers beyond its decimal point? It’s an irrational and transcendental amount, and will continue infinitely without recurrence or sequence. That’s pretty trippy! The number goes on and on and on… Wow! That’s math for ya. Very mysterious and beguiling!

Visit https://www.piday.org/ for more information.

I’ve always found math fascinating, especially beyond simple arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There’s so much in the mathematical world that I don’t know about. I learned from a former tutor that there’s math beyond calculus. I always thought calculus was the end of math. Nope! There’s so much more out there. It’s amazing!

I took Kumon at a young age. I was always ahead in my math classes at school, which was such a blessing as I reflect back. Kumon made it easier for me to understand math, especially in school. But the math got harder and eventually, I couldn’t keep up with my Kumon homework and school homework. I stopped taking Kumon around middle school. When I got to high school, I struggled in math throughout my four years. I decided to re-enroll in Kumon, in hopes that I’ll understand the material better, but it was too late. Because I wasn’t ahead anymore and was basically doing the same level of math in both Kumon and high school, it was too overwhelming and I ceased the program again.

I appreciate the Kumon program so much. I think every parent should enroll their children in Kumon for both math and reading. It really does help the student thrive and excel in those key school subjects. I also took Kumon reading for a few years, but not as long as I took the math program. I wish I stuck with Kumon throughout middle and high school, even though the math was getting harder. It would’ve helped me a lot as I learned a new math subject every school year.

While I was in high school, my personal goal was to take AP Calculus in my senior year. And during that time, I thought calculus was the end of math. I tried so hard to get there throughout my four years, but I didn’t. I made it to pre-calculus, which was a great accomplishment, nonetheless. That was a very hard class. I’m not sure how I would’ve survived calculus. Even with extensive tutoring, I just could not grasp the concepts of the pre-calculus equations. It literally felt like a foreign language to me. I felt so lost.

Moving on…. Let’s talk pies now! Literal pies that we can eat and not calculate and contemplate on. These homemade pot pies are simple to make, but do take some time. There’s a lot of prepping involved. But in the end, it’s so worth the time and effort. They’re so hearty and yummy!

I was first inspired to make these pies from an AllRecipes recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/26317/chicken-pot-pie-ix/. My aunt’s friend shared the recipe with her. Overtime, I made the recipe my own, as I always do. I love modifying my recipes and give my personal touch to them. The picture above is a ground turkey pot pie. I love making my dishes very hearty. I added various veggies, including Okinawan sweet potato to the pot pie mixture. It changed the taste and texture of the mixture and made it scrumptious! Better than the original recipe.

I wish you a celebratory day with a lot of pies!! Happy eating and computing for all you math lovers!

Pai! Get it? Hehe!

FS x

Navajo Tacos & Dreams

In the fall of 2019, I went to visit one of my dearest friends in the Midwest. It was an eye-opening trip, as I got to learn more about the Native American population. I instantly became interested in their culture and values. In 2020, I enrolled in a doctorate course on cultural psychology, where I wrote my final paper on the Native American culture. As soon as I learned about the final assignment for the course, I instantly thought of the Indigenous People. I was excited for this assignment and couldn’t wait to start my research. I learned even more about these marvelous people. I have much respect for them. My paper covered the reasoning behind my interest to research about Native Americans, their history, family structure, immigration, acculturation, assimilation, incorporating cultural dynamics for therapists, and suggestions for family therapists.

While in my girlfriend’s hometown, I got to try Navajo tacos (featured image). It was very delicious AND filling. It was very similar to eating a taco salad, except the ingredients were on a fried bread. I found a recipe link from Allrecipes.com: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/247201/navajo-tacos/. I plan to replicate this dish and share it with my loved ones. I would also love to try more Native American foods when it is safe to travel again. While Hawai’i has a melting pot full of diverse people and food, we do not have many Native Americans who reside here, nor have any American Indian restaurants.

A few years ago, I’ve been intrigued by dreamcatchers, which originates from Native American culture. My dad introduced them to me many years ago as he had a collection of them in his bedroom. I began a small collection of my own around my house. I even have a few pairs of earrings! They’re such beautiful talismans. It is said that the dreamcatchers protect people from nightmares and bad dreams: https://www.onetribeapparel.com/blogs/pai/meaning-of-dreamcatchers. Let us all have happier dreams!

Happy March and almost spring! We’re one-forth into 2021. It’s mind-blowing!

FS x

Lunar New Year Celebrations & Good Luck Wishes Continue…

Happy Sunday! As previously stated last week, today’s ethnic food feature is a popular dish eaten to celebrate the Lunar New Year (LNY). LNY or Chinese New Year (CNY) is celebration across 15 days. Yea!

This week, I’m taking a trip down memory lane to Singapore. I’ve been to the country twice. This year marks 10 years since my first trip to Singapore. Time truly flies. Feels like I was there yesterday. Singapore is a beautiful country- and clean. Smaller than O’ahu, believe it or not, but is more populated by an additional three million people. I can’t fathom the thought of Singapore having more people than O’ahu. O’ahu is pretty crowded with about one million of us residing here. The two times I traveled to Singapore, I hardly saw any people while I was out in public. Although, I traveled to the country before and during the Lunar New Year, respectively. So, maybe a lot of citizens took a holiday and traveled out-of-country.

I learned that during this huge holiday celebration, this is the one and only time families get together and celebrate. It’s a BIG deal! It’s the once-a-year party/reunion everyone looks forward to. I’ve been to one celebration in 2011 with a friend’s family. It was wonderful to be in another country, experiencing a holiday that is so important to them. Their Chinatown was beautifully decorated and multiple festivities were occurring. A much different feel from how LNY is celebrated in Hawai’i, even though we have a huge Asian population in our state.

One of the popular dishes that is eaten during the LNY celebration is yusheng (see featured image). It’s a must-have. All the restaurants offer this on their menu. Yusheng is a mixed salad that includes ingredients symbolizing good luck, that are neatly organized on the plate. Everyone participates and mixes the salad. It’s been said that the higher you toss the salad, the greater the good luck. I was fortunate to experience eating this delicious salad twice, in 2011 and 2015. It was truly memorable.

I found a website that lists all the ingredients needed to make this salad- and its meanings of why it represents good luck. Very fascinating. I love what individual foods represent for different cultures. In many ways, this is what brings people together. Moreover, this is how we learn about and from one another. Through culture, through food, through history, and through story-telling. It’s so wonderful.

Yusheng ingredients:

  1. Raw fish
    • Abundance and prosperity.
  2. Pomelo, which is a very big grapefruit
    • Good luck. Optional to add.
  3. Pepper and cinnamon powder
    • A wish for prosperity. Optional to add.
  4. Oil
    • Drizzled onto salad in a circular motion. This is to symbolize that money is coming in from all directions.
  5. Carrots
    • Good luck.
  6. Green radish
    • Eternal youth. Optional, but recommended to add if serving salad to elders.
  7. White radish
    • Brings good business opportunities.
  8. Crushed peanuts
    • Hopes that your household will be filled with valuable possessions.
  9. Sesame seeds
    • Hopes for your business to flourish in the coming year.
  10. Golden crackers
    • Great wealth.
  11. Plum Sauce
    • Poured all over the dish instead of just one spot for the desired stronger ties with loved ones.

Happy celebrating! Have a wonderful Year of the Ox!

FS x

References:

Giant Singapore (2021). Yusheng ingredients you need to use for luck & prosperity. Retrieved from: https://giant.sg/yusheng-ingredients-you-need-to-use-for-luck-prosperity/