It's What's for breakfast

The golden yolk of the sun rises over the glorious world of breakfast beyond the doldrums of fruit loops and sliced bread. The Shanghai street food stands begin their daily service at 5AM, first greeting the bleary-eyed taxi drivers, then the meandering supermarket cashiers and the army of beauty salon workers, and finally ending their morning with lazy stragglers like me who pick up their wonderfully hot, crisp, and spicy pancake on the way back from the farmers' market down the block.

The most characteristic foods of Shanghai are found and eaten on the street, on the way from somewhere to somewhere else. The best breakfast stands in the neighborhood are not decorated by framed newspaper write-ups or fancy storefronts (actually, there tends to be a lack of storefronts entirely), but one can always tell where the good ones are by the miniature mob hovering about, waiting for their order of freshly made flat bread, steamed buns, dumplings, rice balls and of course, the crispy pancake turned pita thing... No kidding, it is sort of hard to describe what exactly this is, but in Mandarin Chinese, if it's flat and made of dough, it is universally called a bǐng (并), for example "pizza bǐng". This number here is made of whole wheat and corn flour dough, sprinkled with chopped cilantro and Chinese pickles, all wrapped around a crispy fried flat bread (brown and hot pepper sauce optional). It is the inverse of a toasted marshmallow, soft on the outside and crispy on the inside, with zesty green cilantro and tangy pickles throughout, plus a touch of spicy goodness. It is an amazing way to start the morning.

The types of bǐng in China can rival the number of McDonald's in China, but these bǐngs go for a fraction of the cost of a Big Mac (≈¥12.5). This one here can be yours for ¥2.3 plus however much the airfare is to China nowadays (just hope you arrive in the morning, the breakfast club ends at 10AM).


making up for lost time

"And I return to you now, at the turn of the tide."
~Gandalf the White


So, we're moving away from the rich Technicolor masterpieces to the parsimoniously humble rice cake (白糖糕). I just dug the empty package out of the trashcan, and apparently there are only four ingredients: sugar, rice flour, water, and baking soda. Well, it seems I just ate a few jellified blocks of sugar water with cold tea. Delicious actually, in case there were any doubts.

Sugar rice cakes are also surprisingly well suited as modern art. It feels resilient and appears alien (with a touch of the organic look); everything modern design should be. For example, it functions as a runner on a coffee table; beautifully white and strange on the polished black surface. Or perhaps a lacy curtain, much better than that flimsy laser cut stuff (it's bouncy mattress-like qualities cushions you if you ever happen to fall into it). Also, why not a jelly bracelet, a pure white band perforated with shadows. Really, they should sell this stuff at MoMA.

Oh, but it is also a useful substitute for an agar plate, in case anyone wanted to culture some bacteria at home. I once found some very interesting yellow patches after letting it sit out for three days.

Yes, endless amusement, and delicious to boot. I picked it up at the grocery store on Argyle St. for old times sake. I was actually there for the banh mi sandwiches, but that's a rant for another day.


It may not be real sushi...

...but it sure as hell is good.

Paradise Island, AKA half an avocado topped with diced tuna, salmon, and yellowtail. Topped with tobiko and scallions.

I'm actually not that big a fan of tobiko, but raw fish is rapidly growing on me these days. Especially tuna and salmon. The texture of yellowtail actually doesn't quite suit me, so whenever I have this I generally order it without.

Unsurprisingly, in Japan they don't put shrimp tempura or avocado or any of the other American sushi goodies in their rolls. However, genuine sushi makes up for it by having fresher fish straight from the Pacific.

Additionally, fresh/genuine sushi can be obtained in Chicago. There's a restaurant downtown where the chef chops up the fresh fish in front of you. The price is fair (~$100 for two people) for what you get.

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My Japanese Appetizer of Choice

Tuna dumplings...

Spicy tuna mashed with tempura flakes wrapped into a dumpling with tuna sashimi. Topped with a dot of tobiko, scallions, and eel sauce. An appetizer created by the sushi chef at my mom's restaurant in Connecticut.

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The gang is named "TMmushroom", as pricey as the real precious porcini (or cepe in France).
you can find them at "Rose and Radish" in San Francisco.
"Como agua para chocolate"

The Mexican chocolate bread made by ddxy from true whole foods:water, chocolate, flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. It takes long hours of kneading, mixing, folding, sculpturing, and baking... but when they finally come out of the oven, hot and puffy, you'd forget all the troubles in the world...

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spam spam spam spam spam

The midnight snack of the day is spam musubi. Marinate slices of spam in soy sauce and sugar, grill for five minutes... pat dry (you should see the oil). The only proper omusubi is the black brick on the left towards the back, under the two blank maki. So, we have one spam musubi, seven spam maki (tower of rolls), three spam nigiri, and two blank rolls for jacob who cannot eat pork. He's missing out on greasy, salty, and super processed canned meat... poor man.


full cup

Here's another reason why a cup of proper latte should be frothy. How else will it hold a portrait of Kiki? See more cups of latte here.

...And here's a little demonstration.

food family portrait

Well unfortunately, this stuff isn't edible, but they are damn cute, being the prodcuts of felt, fleece, stuffing, and three weeks of very amateurish needle work. They are holiday presents to friends, made according to their tastes, of course.

*From left to right: Juice Box, Mayo, Lime, Bun, Onigiri, and Jalapeño. Missing in the picture are: dead frozen bummy pop, dumpling, and a rather hideous frosted doughnut, as I forgot to take pictures of them before I sent them off.


The onigiri I made for the Thanksgiving potlatch look pretty impressive... but as for how they taste...who can say (a tad too much vinegar in the rice perhaps). The small ones are plain rice balls, and the bigger ones have tuna mixed with bonito flakes and soup base as filling, and with a sprinkle of bonito flakes on top. Getting the nori and the bonito flakes was a hellish experience, as the Chinese and Vietnamese grocery stores were packed on the day before Thanksgiving. It was a real test on my non-existent agression to shove my way through the throngs of people in the aisles and the check-out lines, not to mention trying to squeeze pass the sidelong shopping carts.

Ah, and I made another onigiri as a x-mas present for Angelica, this time out of felt and stuffing.