Alicia's Food For Thought


Dim Sum Culinary Class
December 21, 2010, 11:42 PM
Filed under: Alicia's Asia Adventures, Real Eats | Tags: , ,

Hi readers!

Long time no see. I am taking advantage of some time I have over winter break and catching up on blogposts.

This semester I was able to take 11 of my residents to a dim sum culinary class at Miette Culinary Studio in New York City. It was a ton of fun and Chef Sui Lon Chan was such a great instructor. She usually caters but participates as an occasional instructor at Miette Culinary Studio when she has the time. She had a lot of patience with us as we had a 3 hour long class and 12 mouths to feed.

Ever since I came back from Asia, I’ve been craving to learn how to make all those delicious creations at home and this turned out to be the perfect introduction class to learn how to use tradition Chinese ingredient such as oyster sauce and black mushrooms. We made spareribs with black bean sauce (tofu for the vegetarians), vegetable spring rolls, congee with preserved duck egg and pork, shrimp siu mai, and steamed cake with lychee sorbet for dessert.

One of the few things I learned from the class was to use every part of every ingredient. For example, we used rehydrated black mushrooms and instead of throwing out the water afterwards- the mushroom excreted delicious juices into the water and it was the perfect base of the conjee.

Next, make sure the oil is hot enough to fry the spring rolls. Many people may say that Chinese food is greasy but that is only because the oil was not hot enough when they cooked the food. The spring rolls cooked so quickly and when they came out of the wok, they were crisp and not oily at all. You also have to be careful and make sure that you do not crowd the wok because with each spring roll you put in the wok, the oil temperature will lower which can also cause greasy food.

Another lesson I learned was to not be afraid to get your hands dirty! Cooking is easy if you just remember to use simple ingredients and realize that your fingers are the best mixing utensils in the kitchen. Just make sure you wash your hands in-between cooking stages to avoid cross-contamination. This was especially important when we made the shrimp siu mai. We chopped up the shrimp with ginger, oyster sauce, salt and chives and placed the filling into a dumpling wrapper. After we filled the dumpling wrapper we used our thumb to put a decorative seal on the edges. Chef Chan also informed us that chefs and cooks usually put different colored vegetables on top to distinguish the different types of dim sum. After we had our fill of spring rolls, conjee, sparerips, and siu mai- we of course had to have dessert! The steamed cake was simply made with egg, sugar, and flour and steamed instead of baked. This took less time than baking and also made the cake as light as a pillow.

I can’t wait to make these dishes in my own kitchen but first I need to make a beeline to China Town and purchase a wok, oyster sauce, and black mushrooms before I can begin. Chow, Alicia



Feels like a Dream

Hi readers,

It has been a week since I’ve returned to the United States and it has been nice to do veg out and do nothing. Thailand and China already feels like a dream and like I never really was there. I still can’t believe I was out of the United States for 11 weeks and that I’ll be going back to NYU for my senior year in two.

Here are some my favorite food in Thailand. Keep in mind I was a Pescatarian while I was there so no pork, beef, or chicken dishes here although I am sure they were equally as delicious.

Som Tam (Papaya Salad)- I ate this at least once a week and asked for extra chilis and no shrimp :).

making papaya salad som tam

papaya salad som tam thailand

Nam Prik Num– Northern Thai Green Chili Paste with steamed vegetables

Nam Prik Ka Pi– Thai Chili Paste with fried vegetables

Fcuk Meaw (No that isn’t a typo.)

fcuk meaw

Kao Soy– Northern Thai Soup made with coconut milk aka very fattening.

northern thailand kao soy

northern thailand kao soy toppings

Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls (Yes, you can get this in the US….)

thai spring roll

The internship at the Mae Fah Luang Foundation was an amazing learning experience. I didn’t learn much about marketing or branding but the cultural experience was invaluable. I think this was a summer of a lot of self reflection and I hope I do lose my sense of self-awareness when I go back to school. When you are really put outside of your comfort zone, you get the chance to step outside of your culture and try to get of a sense of what makes you you. I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled all over the world, but I’ve never been to an Eastern country for long period of time before. I thought being in Thailand was going to be similar to my experience in Nicaragua as an Amigos de las Americas Volunteer, but really the two experiences can not be compared. I think I was still very young as a person when I went to Nicaragua and Thailand felt like I was reaching a pivotal point of “growing up”.

bangkok thailand skyline

I want to allot enough time to continue self-reflection at school and I think my decision to cut things out of my life and to work less hours will allow me to do so. I want to continue Yoga when I go back to New York and I think it will remind me patience and to be gentle with myself and my body.

new york city

I still can’t really put into words what happened in Thailand and maybe I am not that different because of it- but I feel older (and maybe a little bit wiser) and I know I’ve made some great friends while I was there and I can’t wait to see them again in the future. (You all better visit me in NYC!)

time flies

Now that the summer is coming to a close, my posts will return to going back to food and food issues. I feel a little out of the loop in the food world and I am going to spend some time now to catch up on reading. Thanks for reading about my Asian Adventures and coming along for the ride. Who knows, maybe I’ll go back to Asia next summer (Bali?).

Chow,

Alicia Kim



An American Girl in a Thai World
July 14, 2010, 7:43 AM
Filed under: Alicia's Asia Adventures | Tags: , , , ,

When I was young, my mom would tell me a story about a green frog. I’m pretty sure it came from my grandma so please ignore the awkward translation from Korean to English:

There was a young green frog that always did the exact opposite of what his mother said. If she said to go left, he would go right. If she said to jump into the water, he would jump into the dirt, etc. One day, the mother frog was about to pass away and her last request to her son was for her body to be buried next to the river thinking that the green frog will bury her far away from the river. The green frog was so upset when his mother died that he finally listened to what she said and buried her near the river. So whenever it rains, you can hear the green frog cry because his mother is closer to floating away.

I think the moral of the story was to always listen to your parents or else you will regret it later. Even to this day my mom calls me a “green frog” because I always go against what she says or I don’t really listen to her opinion and do whatever I want to do.

So what has inspired me to tell you this kinda ridiculous story from my childhood? My group and I are putting together a volunteer program that would include living in the local community and working on a project with the villagers. I tried to give them some ideas on the structure of the volunteer program based off of my experience in Amigos de las Americas volunteer in Nicaragua 2006. We hit a road block when the Thai interns told me that they don’t think that many students would be willing to pay to volunteer and that they don’t really have that many fundraising programs similar to those in the States. For example, instead of selling candy bars or baked goods to raise money, they will go to a local night market and sing and ask for by-standers to donate money or they will ask a classmate’s father’s company to sponsor their program. Then another intern (born in Japan but goes to school in Canada) asked if students’ parents would want them to go volunteer. I don’t remember exactly how this all went down but suddenly we had a heated discussion about parents expectations and family obligations.

This really was a learning experience because I definitely felt ganged up on being the only American in my group (Nick is currently in Phuket). One of the Thai interns said that if her parents did not want her to do something, she would try to convince them otherwise but even if her parents agreed, she would feel too guilty to go through with it. Being my obnoxious American self (being more gentle is going to take more practice), I said that the guilt she was feeling was something she put on herself because ultimately her parents agreed to what she wanted to do so the guilt she felt was unnecessary. The Japanese/Canadian intern said that guilt is not something she put on herself but it is something that society put on her. Then the Thai interns asked me if my mom was worried about me coming to Thailand because of the Red Shirts incident. I said, “Of course! She sent me 5 thousand emails with news articles about the situation… but I’m still here. If I honestly felt like it was dangerous here I would not have come but I trusted the foundation that it would be fine.” Then they asked if I came and got into an accident that prevented me from being able to walk if I would feel guilty from not listening to my mother. I told them that I would probably regret my decision but I wouldn’t feel guilty from not listening but at the same time, if I stayed in the States over the summer I probably would have regretted not coming to Thailand in the first place. At least now I know that I have stuck with my decision and saw how it panned out. Then another intern exclaimed, “Well we actually think about other people!”And then it hit me. Am I self-centered? Even though I came to Thailand to work on social development and help the livelihood of hill-tribe people… was my decision to come here self-centered because I didn’t think about how it would affect my mom?

This realization became very jarring to me because then I thought about some of the decisions that I have made in my life: going to Nicaragua for 2 months as a 16 year old to do community service, deciding to go to school 3000 miles away in NYC, and coming to Thailand during one of its most turbulent political years. All 3 of those decisions I’ve made because I wanted new experience for myself and I would argue up and down the staircases and send emails and do research to convince my parents that I am making the right decision even if their first answer is “No.”

Wow, now don’t I feel like a shitty kid….but wait that can’t be right because I know I’m not a shitty kid. So then I gave the other interns this scenario: Say you have a friend, and she was really talented and good at singing. She wanted to become a singer but her parents didn’t approve saying that it was not a proper future for their daughter. What would tell her? They all agreed that they would support her to become a singer. Then I countered, “Doesn’t that go against everything that you said to me?” And then one intern thought outloud, “Maybe… or maybe I would help her to come up with a compromise with her parents. Everything in Thailand can be solved by compromise.”

But my American brain kept saying, “Isn’t that so unsatisfying?? Don’t you want what you want without having to compromise?” Then I thought maybe the reason why I work so hard to make sure that my decisions are worthwhile is because my parents don’t approve at first. So it they did agreed right away, would I work just as hard? No, I definitely would not. I work my ass off so that they know that I made a good decision and I can turn around and say, “See Ma? I’ve made it!” Which is ultimately what my parents want for me right?

But maybe Americans are addicted to learning things the hard way. Because why don’t we listen to our parents more? The Thai interns said that they listen to their parents because they only want what is what is best for them. They think about their lives in the long term. One intern said, “I wish I could work in Singapore but then I think about my family and if anything happened to my grandma and then what if I can’t come to Thailand in time? That is enough to prevent me from going to Singapore.”

OK, I’m not a cold-hearted bitch and I think about my family too and I know that if anything happened to my grandma while I was in NY I would haul ass back to CA. But I know that my grandparents and parents don’t want to hold me back from anything.

I finally admitted to the rest of the interns, “Now you guys made me feel bad because I don’t think enough about my family.” Then the Thai intern said, “Well you made me feel bad because now I realize that I put my family above myself. So now we can feel bad together.”

But why do we feel bad? The way I think isn’t right or wrong and the way that they isn’t right or wrong either. Actually now that I think about it, we are both doing what our families want us to do. We both love our families. And the definition of love is what you make of it. Whether it be through time, obedience, affection, whatever you know how to do best. My family wants me to take advantage of all the opportunities that come my way, while the other interns think more holistically about their family and are more receptive to their parents opinions.

In conclusion, I’ve decided that my mom created the green frog within me. She allowed me to do whatever I want despite of what others may say (even if that “other” includes her). And now that I’ve just spent an hour trying to explain to the other interns why I am the way I am I feel more… American, yet again. The fact that I had to convince them that way I think is normal made me feel more convicted that that is how I am and I’m sure that they feel more Thai/Japanese as well. So here I am again: being an American girl trying to survive and learn in this Thai world.

Alicia Kim



Becoming More Me
June 28, 2010, 11:59 PM
Filed under: Alicia's Asia Adventures | Tags: , , ,

One month from tomorrow I will be back in the United States and I can’t believe I have been gone for about 6 and a half weeks. I think this internship in Thailand has given me a lot of time for me to think about myself. Usually in New York I don’t have time to really think about why I am doing things or what do my actions say about me, etc. I am not sharing this in a narcissistic way but rather for self reflection.

Being in a different country has really shown me how pretty damn “American” I actually am. I always thought that I had a good sense of balance of being “Asian-American” and that I would be able to blend in well with my Asian roots but as the Thai interns so kindly (or not so kindly) remind me how American I really am. I am loud, opinionated, direct, argumentative, self-righteous, and really have low sensitivity towards others’ backgrounds. I use to take pride in “winning” and creating situations where it is either my way or the high way and if you aren’t along for the ride, I’ll see you on the flip-side. People have told me in the past that I am “rough around the edges” and I used to be defensive and huff a “You don’t know me” tough attitude in response. My parents used to tell me that I need to be more “gentle” and softer with the way that I act. Again, I would be really offended and be curt with my words and say, “Stop trying to change me! Why can’t you accept me for who I am?” I’ve built up these walls that are so thick that it is harder and harder identify more with who I am on the inside versus who I present myself as on the outside.

But is that who I really want to be? Do I want to be considered a “tough bitch” and to follow my HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge) ways? I realize more and more while I am here that I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be this person pent up inside and who will cut you down before pulling you back up. And that may not really be “me”. We just celebrated Nick’s (another intern and my closest friend here) 21st birthday this weekend in Chiang Rai and we talked about how much growing he has done this past year in his life and how he feels like he is more himself. It really got me thinking about who do I want to “become” and how do I define what my life is going to look like? I’ve noticed I’ve changed a little bit while I am here by the things that I say and how I simply ask questions. Before I would be very “American” and ask very direct questions acting like “I am here to help you, dammit! Your way is obviously stupid and not working so answer this question so that you realize that my way is obviously better.” OK, maybe not that extreme but you get the drift. I asked questions like I was very entitled and that my “American Private University Education” allowed me to become an expert on how the foundation should function. I needed to take a step back and realize that there is a balance and a flow to the knowledge exchange. Yes, of course I am very helpful in giving them guidance on how their website can function better BUT they have a lot to teach me about humility, being intuitive about other people’s feelings/wants/needs, and about how to be a good person in general (things a Private University can’t teach me). There are also other small things like how I’ve noticed the Thai interns share EVERYTHING and they don’t count who owes who etc. Very un-American where I usually count exactly how much you owe me to the very penny or better yet, let’s not share to begin with so we don’t need to get into this messy situation of trying to even out the score. Really, there is no reason for me to be such a miser, these are only temporary things that don’t matter. Every time a Thai intern offers me anything they are symbolically saying, “Look, the cost of sharing this papaya with you is nothing compared to the value of spending more time with you.” So I took my ego down a notch and now I do want to be more gentle with not just myself but with others as well and to not get so caught up in the murk of looking out for only “What’s in it for me?”

So here is to a new leaf, page, or whatever metaphorical word you would use for a new outlook on life. I like myself more now.

Alicia Kim



Faces of Rural China
June 8, 2010, 2:44 AM
Filed under: Alicia's Asia Adventures | Tags: , , , , , ,

rural china

man in rural china

children in rural china

boy in rural china

old man in rural china

amelia in the mountains of china



Alicia is Alive!

Hello readers and the world!

I haven’t had much access to the internet for the past 3 weeks, so I haven’t been able to blog about my abroad adventures until now. I actually really enjoyed not having access to the internet, it felt like a good cleansing of my mind since I do spend so much time on the computer. I really got the chance to reflect on my own thoughts without any distractions. But now that I do have the internet, I want to shift in just reflecting on my thoughts to actually writing/video blogging them down so that I can go back to them during the school year.

So in Hong Kong and China I was taking a class at New York University called Global Social Entrepreneurship. Originally the class was supposed to take place in Thailand at the Mae Fah Luang Foundation (where I currently am interning), but due to the violence and turmoil happening the class was cancelled and Richard (one of our classmates) decided to come up with a replacement program in Hong Kong and his hometown in China. We all had a great time on our crazy adventures and even though I am not sure how much I’ve learned about social entrepreneurship, I definitely learned a lot about myself (all of which I will share in later posts).

Since we were in Hong Kong, we ate a TON of dim sum. I actually need to confess and let you know that I actually put my vegetarianism on hiatus for the two weeks we were in Hong Kong and China. I wanted to get the full experience of eating authentic Chinese/Cantonese food. Also, I did not have any control over the food that we ordered. Most of the time we had Richard order the food for the table and we ate whatever was ont he table. One thing I made sure of is that the meat was locally produced before I ate it.

Here are some samples (and pictures of food of course) from the trip to give you a taste of Hong Kong/China:

hong kong market

world peace cafe

hong kong dim sum

hkust dim sum

alicia in hong kong

macau food

chinese food

lazy susan

amelia

chinese rice field

Chow,

Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident
alicia.foodforthought@gmail.com



Where in the world is Alicia Kim?

Hi readers,

I am sorry that I have been MIA the past couple of months. Things have been prtty hectic with school, work, extracurriculars and whatnot- but no more! I finished school last week, moved out of my room yesterday and am staying with Sam for a couple of days.

So this year I have been traveling quite a bit: Turkey in January, Italy & Spain in March… so where where in the world am I going to next?

ASIA!

I will be leaving to Hong Kong on Sunday and going around China until the 29th and then going to Thailand for an internship for about 9 weeks. I won’t be back in the states until August. I can’t believe I am going to be gone for so long. I will be interning for the Mae Fah Luang Foundation in Doi Tung, Thailand and looking at their agriculture, food systems. As part of my internship, I am supposed to document and record my (and the other interns) day to day activities so I invested in a Flip Cam so my video blogs will be in HD.

So this post is really not food related… but I know I have not updated in a while and wanted to let you know what I am up to this summer. Trust me, my posts in Thailand will definitely be about food, the food instury and food products.

Wish me luck and pray I don’t die from mosquito bites!

Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant