ten-minute stir fry

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ingredients: garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, cooked rice, brown mushrooms, spinach, eggplant, eggs, sesame seeds, fresh basil, ginger, sea salt, and black pepper.

chop up the garlic and sauté in sesame oil. crack the eggs into the pan (season with salt and pepper) and chop up the mushrooms and eggplant while the garlic and eggs are cooking in the pan. add the mushrooms and eggplant into the pan, then add the cooked riced, and cover in soy sauce (and a little more sesame oil). chop up some ginger and fresh basil, and add into the pan. add the spinach in and watch it shrink down. season with salt and pepper, take off the heat, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve.

i’m pretty sure this post took me longer to write up than making this dish for dinner tonight.

dinner party yvr #dpyvr

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last night, my friend lisa and i attended dinner party yvr, one of the best charity events that i’ve ever been to. the concept behind it: chefs volunteer to make a meal at their house for a group of strangers, everyone donates at least $50 (which goes to each chef’s charity of choice), and dinner is served. this happens all around the city at various homes, with each chef cooking a different style of dinner for a group of six people or so. the dinner that lisa and i went to had a “dining like at vij’s” theme, which consisted of homemade naan, amazing indian dishes straight out of vij’s cookbook, wine/beer pairings to go with all the dishes, and masala peas (think wasabi peas, but with indian spices) along with a yummy bourbon cocktail while we waited for dinner to be served.

every picture posted on instagram/twitter from the event with the hashtag #dpyvr got an additional $5 donated to charity by one of the sponsors, blueshore financial.

sensei sushi

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while i was in the philippines last december, i met up with bea (an old friend that i went to school with in jakarta), who took me to sensei sushi. she always had such great foodporn from this place on her instagram account, so i was excited to check it out.

the place isn’t that fancy, just a little hole-in-the-wall, but their food was amazing! really high-quality japanese fusion food. we ordered a bunch of dishes to share, so we could try a little bit of everything the foie gras nigiri (picture #1) was one of my favourites, along with the tuna tartare on kang kong crisps (picture #5). we were allowed to bring our own bottle of wine in, and they didn’t make us pay a corkage fee, which was nice. our bill still ended up being over 2,000 pesos between the two of us (around $45 – $50), which shocked me since we were in asia, we weren’t paying for any alcohol, and the place wasn’t located in an upscale area or inside a 5-star hotel.

it’s crazy how expensive the philippines is becoming, especially since the average wages are so low! according to this article, the TOP, best paying salary for a recent grad there is around 23,000 pesos (which is $500) a month. the top, best paying salary for an oil and gas ENGINEER that has 1 – 4 years of experience is around 40,000 pesos ($900) a month and the top, best paying salary for those in the IT industry with over five years of experience is 55,000 pesos (roughly $1,200) a month.

According to Jobstreet Philippines, the average monthly salary of a fresh graduate (based on the list of jobs posted on their site) is P16,524 (roughly $372). So if you are earning more than P16,524 you are already earning more than the average of your peers.” – http://www.pinoymoneytalk.com/biggest-paying-jobs-philippines/

crispy gnocchi with spinach pesto

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the spinach pesto recipe was taken from one of my favourite food blogs, frugal feeding.

ingredients: spinach, garlic cloves, feta cheese, walnuts, lemon juice, olive oil, canola oil, gnocchi, parmesan cheese, sea-salt, and black pepper.

place spinach, garlic cloves, feta cheese, walnuts, lemon juice, and olive oil in a blender – blend until it’s at a consistency you like and tada… homemade pesto in seconds! boil gnocchi in a pot until done and then drain; pan fry in canola oil until slightly crispy. place in a bowl, cover the gnocchi with the homemade pesto, garnish with chopped walnuts, sprinkle parmesan cheese on it, and season with sea-salt and pepper.

mint in meatballs? delicious.

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mint in meatballs… i was skeptical at first, but it turned out to be absolutely delicious.

i would normally post a link back to the original recipe, but i deviated so much from it that there’d be no point. well, i didn’t deviate from it ingredient-wise, but i just didn’t agree with the techniques she used. firstly, the author told me to set my oven at 425°C, and i did at first, but then all this smoke started to emerge from the oven so i turned it down to 350 before a fire started. the author of the original recipe also wanted to GRATE the zucchini and sear the meatballs over the stove before placing them in the oven – ain’t nobody got time for that! i chopped up the zucchini in my blender (it had a “chop” button that i’ve been wanting to test out) and i stuck the meatballs straight in the oven until they were fully cooked. i love finding efficient ways to do things, without compromising quality. some might see it as laziness, but i prefer the term “being resourceful.”

besides, who wants to cook a laborious dinner after returning home tired from a full day at work? that’s what i thought.

ingredients: ground turkey, zucchini, green onions, fresh mint leaves, cilantro, cloves of garlic, egg, sea-salt, pepper, and cumin.

pre-heat oven to 350°C. chop up the ingredients and place in a bowl. crack the egg in there, add the spices, and mix everything around with your hands. shape into meatballs, put on a baking tray (i lined mine with a sheet of wax paper), and bake for around 15 – 20 minutes, or until they are done.

easy, simple, and delicious.

jakarta: bakmi gm and the marriott buffet

when we landed in jakarta, nothing felt familiar anymore. i know a lot can change in a decade and i knew about all the ongoing developments throughout the years, but i just couldn’t believe how different everything was! it was like i landed in a city that i’ve never been to before, not a city that i’ve spent nine years of my life in (which, to-date, is the longest time i’ve ever lived in one city). i’m so glad one thing was still exactly the same: the food. especially at two of my favourite places in jakarta, bakmi gm and the buffet at the marriott.

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i can’t even put into words how happy it made me to have bakmi ayam again, after craving it for ten years and not being able to find this dish anywhere else in the world. it tasted exactly how i remembered it – it’s funny how food and the way it tastes can elicit so many memories. bakmi gm was still in its same spot in pondok indah mall, and had the exact same menu. pangsit goreng + bakmi ayam + teh bottle = a perfect first meal in jakarta and the first thing that felt like home.

sailendra, the buffet at the marriott hotel

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despite being bombed twice, this place is exactly the same – from the layout to all the food served. i was pleasantly surprised and incredibly glad that this was one of the few places in jakarta that didn’t change a bit. it is seriously the BEST BUFFET IN THE WORLD. the sections of food available are as follows: seafood (oysters, crab legs, lobster, shrimp, etc.), japanese (sashimi and various sushi rolls), indian (all types of traditional curries with basmati rice and naan), chinese (different strains of noodles soaked in soup, with meat and other garnishes), indonesian (traditional indonesian dishes like nasi goreng and mie goreng), italian (pizza cooked in a wood-oven and pasta made right in front of your face), cheese (all types served with crackers, bread, and slices of meat), desserts (all kinds of decadent cakes, slices of fruit, and a chocolate fondue fountain), and a section of miscellaneous dishes that can’t be categorized by country, but includes items like roast duck and racks of lamb. oh and i think there’s a salad bar somewhere there too, but this is not the time to waste precious stomach space on a salad.

if you ever find yourself in jakarta, these would be two places i highly recommend checking out for food.

bali: my personal travel recommendations

after almost a decade, i returned back to one of my favourite places on earth this december – bali. boy has it changed. first of all… traffic?! secondly, wow has it become expensive! this isn’t the cheap asia i used to know and love. pitchers of sangria at potato head were $50! i wouldn’t even pay those prices here in vancouver, which is allegedly, the most expensive city to live in north america. also, “the place to be” has changed from kuta to seminyak (although it was nice to see apache, bounty, and paddys still all there on the streets of kuta). but despite the traffic, the inflated prices, and all the rain that happened in the two weeks we were there, beautiful bali still remains on my list as one of my favourite places in this world. there’s just something inexplicably magical about it that will always remain close to my heart.

here are some of my personal travel recommendations taken from my recent trip back:

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have a bintang – you’re in bali, it’s obligatory to make this beer your first drink. it might also be the only thing you drink, since it is significantly cheaper than all the other drinks on any menu. it was even cheaper than the mocktails (cocktails without the alcohol aka JUICE) my mom drank.

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eat nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodles), and satay ayam (chicken satay) from a warung. “warung murah” was the best warung we ate at on this trip. “warung” is a stall on the side of the road that serves food and “murah” means “cheap” in indonesian. warung murah can be found down the street from seminyak square and serves legitimate indonesian food for very cheap prices (especially considering it’s located in seminyak). a plate of nasi goreng or mie goreng was around $3 (or less, i can’t remember the exact prices). the satay ayam (pictured above) was my favourite.

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grab a bed at potato head and watch the sunset. despite the $50 pitchers of sangria, potato head still served $4 bintangs (our beer of choice not necessarily out of choice, but more out of cost). the beds have a minimum spend of 500,000 rupiah (around $50), which is not hard to do with drinks and sunset snacks. there’s an infinity pool that overlooks the beach and is equipped with a swim-up bar. deep house music + the views + good company + a drink in your hand = ultimate relaxation.

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watch the sunset at kudeta and order from their “grazing” menu. they actually have a grazing menu. kudeta is very similar to potato head (in prices and vibes), and another great place to go to relax and catch the sunset. we even went for a dip in the ocean and came right back. their moroccan eggplant house made dip served with pita bread (pictured above) is so tasty, and their no kisses for you tonight (confit garlic puree, parmesan, parsley and mozzarella) pizza (also pictured above) is simple, yet so delicious.

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experience the best seafood in the world at jjimbaran. i’ve been to a few of the restaurants lined up along the beach, and all have been spectacular. you can pick out what you want to eat (crab, lobster, fish, etc.) and you can literally pick the specific live pieces you want to eat from the tanks out front of each of the restaurants. they will then prepare your meal for you fresh, and serve it with a side of rice and kangkong (water spinach) stir-fried with chili and spices. a little fresh fruit platter is also served for dessert. there are tables and chairs set up right on the beach where you can enjoy a nice meal by the ocean. heinekens were actually the same price as bintangs at the restaurant we ate at during christmas eve, which was a welcomed change.

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stay in a poolside room at the vansanti, create a makeshift swim-up bar, and eat breakfast overlooking rice-terraces. for around $60 a night (expedia deal) we lucked out by getting a room that was literally connected to the pool. i thought the concierge was speaking metaphorically when he said that the room was so close to the pool that you could jump in… but it was meant in a literal sense, because you could just jump into the pool from your room since the patio (equipped with lounge chairs) is connected to the pool. the staff is extremely friendly and so accommodating. the free buffet breakfast that’s included is amazing – the food in general at the restaurant was great, which was surprising for a hotel. there’s a rooftop lounge located on the sixth floor with impeccable bali sunset views.

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chill on a beanbag along jalan double six. this was, hands down, my favourite part about bali that didn’t exist ten years ago. this strip of the beach is quiet and lined with restaurants that lay out beanbags right on the beach. servers come right up to you to take your order and serve you beer and food on the beach. there are also women who walk around randomly offering spa-services, such as mani/pedis.

what are your favourite things to do in bali and favourite places to go to? please leave me a note in the comments, i’d love to hear your own personal travel recommendations!