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Saturday, January 31, 2009


Beach season is officially here! Yay! Sigh, it was so hard enduring that one week of "Winter"... but alas, the gloom and cold (ok, like 50 degree weather) are finally gone and everybody was out on the beach today! Mesmerized by the sparkly water, we could even see Catalina Island.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Doki and Nabi: couple of the century!

Oh, it's been such a nice day. The weather was warm and toasty. When I got off work, even the heavens was smiling at me. The moon was a perfect little crescent, with one bright bright star to its upper left side and one bright bright star to its upper right, forming a perfect smiley face! Though after a few seconds, I noticed the star on its right was moving slowly in the direction of LAX... but anyways... before I reached the parking garage, my nose caught a whiff of delicious BBQ smell... it turned out one of the entertainment companies was having a dinner reception... hmmm I so wanted to crash it and if I ever get arrested for trespassing... I'll use the defense that my nose made me do it!

Alrighty, getting back to the subject of this blog entry: Doki and Nabi! Thanks P for emailing me the link. I just love this cartoon series... it's so cute and got a good message too -- love conquers everything, even if you are a bunny that falls in love with a kitty! Check it out!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let's volunteer!

I volunteered at a soup kitchen today through LA Works volunteer network! It was really fun and rewarding. We served probably over 500 meals! Yep! Women and children first, then families, then men...I was the tray handler... once the trays were filled with food, I lined them up so other volunteers at the other end could hand them out! But with hundreds of people to serve, I had to be fast! Anyway, I am glad less fortunate people got food to eat tonight. It was so good to be out there helping others, instead of sitting on my butt and watching silly soap operas... Let's all volunteer and make the world a better place!
Picture courtesy of Teach Peace Foundation

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Chinese Invented the Lunar New Year!

Ok, we Chinese are a very generous people. But I am feeling a bit of consternation that other countries are proclaiming the Lunar New Year as the Mongolian New Year or the Vietnamese New Year or the Korean New Year... Ahem, the Lunar New Year originated in China. Long long time ago, when China was a powerful country, its Confucian culture spread to its neighboring states and hence many adapted Chinese characters as their written language and the Chinese Lunar calendar as their calendar... But it's misleading to call the Chinese New Year anything other than aka the Lunar New Year... It's like me writing a paper on Einstein's Theory of Relativity, making a few tweaks here and there, scribble a few Hello Kitty figures on the margins, and then call it Prof MeowMeow Cat's Theory of Relativity as if I independently came up with the idea and try to claim the Nobel Prize... It's just not right! Hmph. Btw, don't be deceived by her innocent looks!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

Plum blossoms! One of the most beloved flowers in Chinese culture and a favorite motif for Chinese New Year. Unlike other flowers, they bloom in the harshest of environments, the middle of the winter. Their spirit mirrors the spirit of the Chinese: resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. Happy Chinese New Year and may the year of the Ox bring you happiness and prosperity!
Painting by Artist Li Lin

Friday, January 23, 2009

Itty Bitty Biiiirrrdddy with Little Cast!

He has a little cast on his little foot and a collar to prevent him from chewing on it... Awwwwww. He is my friend's friend's birdie. Update: his name is Hoochie. Get well soon little fella!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

There is something about Ma La...

Sichuan Cuisine is known for its Ma (numbness/tingliness) and La (spiciness)... they are clearly addictive flavors... I craved Ma La all week, so a few days later, I went back to Ghost Street to a restaurant called Hu Da... which supposedly had the best Ma La Little Lobster (i.e. crayfish)...their crayfish Ma La sauce is super... in addition to Sichuan peppercorn (which gives the Ma-ness) and Sichuan red chili pepper (which gives the La-ness) the sauce also had bay leaves, garlic and other herby looking stuff... though we weren't sure what seasoning (soy sauce?) they used.

But, as good as their Ma La Little Lobsters, I liked their fragrant chili baby hairy crabs even more... it was Ma La, but it had a different sauce that exuded a subtle sweetness... coupled with the slightly fried crunchy texture of the hairy crabs... simply divine!

Here is a closeup... look at the roe! Kind of looks like a big spider huh? Not pictured is the shell which also contained generous portions of roe... so yummy!

Massacre... we probably used up ten pairs of gloves.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Beijing Food Review

After my quick tour of the Forbidden City, in which I spent half of the time looking for my favorite glove...boohoo, I have small paws, so hard to find good glove... anyway, since I was freezing with only one glove in hand, I walked over to the neighborhood next the FC to get some warm hearty food... See the traditional hutong neighborhood to the left? Oh yeah, the Royal Archive is on the same street.

I stopped by a mom and pop shop and had some Wuxi little buns and a bowl of wonton soup for a whopping one dollar! Simple, tasty, everyday fare.

Here is mom and here is pop...

Next up, at the urging of D, I went to the famous Ghost Street in Beijing. It is so nicknamed because for a while workers with late shifts would go there to grab a bite after work... lots of restaurants on Ghost Street have these red lanterns hanging in front...very festive atmosphere...

Here is the inside of the restaurant we went to: the concept is traditional Beijing courtyard dining. I know it's hard to see. But in the summer, it is an open air restaurant. The main dining area is the courtyard, surrounded by private dining rooms, just like a Sihe Yuan, the traditional Beijing dwelling. Since it's winter time, the courtyard is enclosed by a high tin roof with heating lamps (like the ones we have in California) to keep diners warm.

BTW, menus in China are way better than the US, they are almost always laminated with pretty pictures of each dish...

There was even performance for the diners... here this guy is making knife shaved noodle while pedaling a unicycle and the guy standing is catching the shaved noodles... the dough is on his head.

Fooood... Mala Crayfish... lamb shanks... Mao Shue Wong (a spicy dish kind of like water boiled fish but with congealed blood and various innards instead of fish, so good I had it three times in Beijing)... and you get free plastic gloves for the super spicy crayfish.

Close up of Mala Crayfish and appetizers. The marinated bamboo shoot was surprisingly tender and refreshing... had a slightly sour taste to it.

I finished the meal with one of my favorite desserts: ice sugar hu lu... a traditional northern Chinese street sweet. Sort of like candied apples but with haw berries (a type of sour Chinese berries) coated with caramelized ice sugar, it has a perfect sweet and sour taste.

Here is another pictures of lots of Bin Tang Hu Lu, nowadays, they sometimes use strawberries and other types of fruits to make BTHL. When I was little, I remember seeing street peddlers carrying broom shaped sticks full of BTHL on their shoulders... I don't see them anymore.

....arrghh, it's getting late... Beijing food review to be continued tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cat goes to the Forbidden City

It was a cold morning in Beijing, so I bundled up and wobbled over to the Forbidden City. Hmmm, if I were the Princess of China, the entrance to the Forbidden City would look like this... not bad huh, or should I include a glamour shot instead?

And here is where I'd meet the cabinet and decide on the major policies of the day -- first, all lobsters and seafood of every kind will be shipped to Beijing for my consumption and second, all cute guys will be gathered up and sent to the FC to be part of my harem, hehehe... They can live in the building behind the main administration hall...

Oh yeah, here is a long walkway in the FC... I guess overflow harem could camp out here...

Back alley way, where I lost my favorite glove.

Close up of a hallway -- I like to take these "depth" shots.

Gargoyles, guarding over the lords and ladies of the Forbidden City.

Windows at the FC...contrast in light and dark.

Royal Theater

And the Emperor would sit here to watch Beijing Opera... like all good Chinese, he even kept the plastic cover on his seat.

Nine Dragon Wall...nine dragon motifs are the emperor's exclusive trademark...if you are a commoner and wear nine dragon motifs, you are in big trouble!

Back area of the Forbidden City. It was a cold, crisp and super dry day. My lips were chapped and swollen after just a few hours outside... I sort of had a permanent pout for the remainder of the day.

The local yo-yo club in the FC... have no idea why they were there, guess if you yo-yo, might as well yo-yo at the Forbidden City.

Here is the view outside the back entrance of the Forbidden City. When the Manchurians invaded Ming Dynasty China, the last Ming emperor committed suicide in the garden on the hill, marking the end of Han Chinese rule until 1911 when the Manchurian Ching Dynasty was itself overthrown by republicans.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

24 Hours in Seoul, South Korea

I was in Beijing last week. Since Seoul is a mere two hour flight away and M is working near Seoul, I decided to make a short hop over and visit Seoul for the weekend. Many thanks to M for showing me around!

Here is the Han River and the major bridge that connects the north and the south part of Seoul... just kidding, this is a little creek in downtown Seoul that is popular with the locals, especially in the summer. There is an interesting photo exhibit on the area surrounding the creek. Even as late as the 1950s, the creek was lined with slum shacks, now it is lined with skyscrapers. Kudos to the Koreans for the huge progress they've made in the past fifty years.

After a short stroll at the creek, we headed to one of the many popular hangout spots in Seoul. I love these kinds of neighborhoods... they are lined with shops, restaurants, bars... even the ones that are tucked in an alley or a corner are invariably filled with people making merry...

Mmmm, street food. You can find street vendors at practically every street corner. You pick out the food you want to eat, either pay and take away or you eat next to the stall, and pay after you are finished... very cheap way to fill up your tummy!

Here is a closeup of the typical street food offerings... dokbokki, Korean sushi, tempura, (sometimes the vendor cuts up the tempura and puts it in the dokbokki sauce for the customers)... fish cake on stick, the vendor also gives you a cup of the broth that the fish cake is boiled in... good comfort food.

After eating some street food, we wandered around old town... Seoul is generally modern, but there are pockets of older structures... I find them charming. I wish more Asian cities would preserve traditional structures instead of rushing to copy all things West.

Downtown Seoul can be seen in the haze beyond...

Seoul at night...kind of like big cities everywhere.

Now, time for some good food! When M pointed out the restaurant to me, I was a bit hesitant... it was on the second floor of a non-descriptive building... but, once you get up the cranky elevator, and get through the door, you are hit with a roomful of noisy diners... mostly young people eating pork belly BBQ, drinking soju and chatting away.

This restaurant is known for its pork belly... mmmm, so good, mouth getting watery again!

After it is cooked, the pork belly is wrapped with thinly sliced daikon... mouth seriously getting watery now, you see, the pork belly is slightly charred and fatty, and the daikon is refreshing and watery, they balance each other out perfectly... Mmmm, maybe I should head to Ktown and get some for dinner tonight!

I finished the meal with some cold noodles. Again, flavorful and refreshing.

The next day, we took a cable cart ride to Namsam, which overlooks the city. It was a hazy morning so not much could be seen, but we did see these love locks on the deck of the Seoul Tower (which is kind of like the Seattle Space Needle). Hmm, maybe I should unlock a few and see what happens to the love birds...

After the Namsam excursion, we headed to the "Beverly Hills" of Seoul... and saw this store named after yours truly. Yep yep, I am glamorous, but no, I am not a Japanese kitty, I am a Chinese kitty!

Last meal in Seoul... I like this little row of restaurants tucked in an alley off a busy market...

Very quaint can take off your shoes and do traditional style Korean dining...


Seafood and glass noodle concoction...

This was the star... Korean hot pot with dumplings, pork short ribs, mushrooms, sticky rice sticks, veggies... the sauce was spicy and sweet. Mmmm...I felt all warm inside after this hearty meal.

Good-bye Seoul... stone steps similar to these could be seen in the earliest pictures of the creek... at the time, women crossed the steps to wash clothes and food, now Japanese tourists hop over them to live out their Korean drama fantasies...