My Mekong Journey

I just dug up this draft I started 3 years ago. I decided to tidy up what text there was, add some notes, and publish it.

I missed my cookbooks when they were in storage for five-plus months. The cookbooks were one of the first things I dug out of boxes when we moved into the bigger new place. Our little place was only big enough for one guest, yet I daydreamed about dinner parties. Now I could fill in the details of my daydreams by perusing recipes.

In the first days at the big place, when we had no internet, I read the cookbooks. Many have introductory and interstitial text that you never encounter if you stick to reading only the index and the recipes. I decided then that I would set out to read such cookbooks from start to end, only skipping through the most mechanical bits. I have started with Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia. I have been reading it a few pages at a time for about a month. [Editorial note from 2017: I did finished it. I don’t recall if I read any other cookbooks after that.]

Continue reading “My Mekong Journey”

Pantry Inventory: mid-year round up

Back in January, I decided I wanted to formally track the usage of the items in my pantry. I was feeling like I was a hoarder who had purchased more items than they would actually use. I photographed every item (except for spices and teas and stables). I have blogged about all my usage of these items.

I started with 105 catalogued items. Along the way I have added a few more items, and even replenished some.

So, what did I make?

I made 52 dishes that included my pantry items in half as many weeks:

Dish #1: Thai Green Curry, with gloriously big shrimp
Dish #2: Homemade linguine with yellow arrabbiata
Dish #3: Spicy cold celery salad
Dish #4: Dry-fried green beans
Dish #5: “Szechuan Eggplant”
Dish #6: Rava upma
Dish #7: Indian-spiced eggplant
Dish #8: Silken tofu snack
Dish #9: Seasoned fried cashews
Dish #10: Takeout rotisserie chicken with Toronto-style churrasco chicken sauce
Dish #11: Chopped Greek salad with hard boiled egg
Dish #12: Matcha soba
Dish #13: Vegetable tempura
Dish #14: Spicy mushroom ratatouille on toasts
Dish #15: Challah
Dish #16: Challah French toast
Dish #17: Grilled Greek Salad
Dish #18: Alkaline noodles AKA ramen noodles
Dish #19: Miso ramen
Dish #20: Out-of-season pumpkin pie
Dish #21: Korean pancakes
Dish #22: Salt & pepper shrimp
Dish #23: Dry-fried green beans with Taiwanese rice
Dish #24: Vinegar pie
Dish #25: Sauce gribiche on string beans
Dish #26: Nước chấm
Dish #27: Sesame rice crackers
Dish #28: Thai red curry
Dish #29: Experimental noodles
Dish #30: French toast
Dish #31: Udon
Dish #32: Small-batch brownies
Dish #33: Spicy cold celery salad
Dish #34: Shiitake and cabbage wontons in homemade vegetable broth
Dish #35: Roasted eggplant, zucchini, and red pepper wraps with hummus, caramelized onion, fresh basil, and hot sauce
Dish #36: “Breakfast poutine” with homemade curds and gravy
Dish #37: Sardines on crispbread
Dish #38: Fish curry
Dish #39: Chili oil
Dish #40: Radishes in chili oil
Dish #41: Dry-fried salt & pepper vegetables
Dish #42: Sweet potatoes and rice
Dish #43: Fish curry
Dish #44: Basmati rice with dried lime
Dish #45: Mango pickle
Dish #46: Mustard leaves with paneer
Dish #47: Pandan pudding
Dish #48: Chipotle-glazed pork ribs
Dish #49: Vietnamese sticky rice breakfast with mung beans
Dish #50: Not-cornbread
Dish #51: Chipotle-glazed pork ribs, again
Dish #52: Homemade ravioli with quail egg yolks and blood sausage

So, what items did I use?

From my original pantry of 105 items, plus a few I added along the way, I used pantry 62 items. Here are the 56 items I have photos for, in the order I first used them:

Not pictured, because I added them along the way: mustard oil, asafoetida, oyster sauce, Crazy Bastard hot sauce, cornstarch, raisins. Plus I threw away the cheese culture.

These are the items I used more than three times each:

So, what did not use, yet?

By category, these are the items I still did not use at all in six whole months:

Chinese cuisine

Hrmm. I did use all of these but the Chinese dried chilis at least once in something I improvised, but I think the dish I made was so terrible I didn’t blog about it.

Japanese cuisine

I used everything in this category!

Thai cuisine

Basically, I need to have people over for a Thai sticky rice meal. For another meal, I could serve a chicken dish, tom ka soup, and a red sticky rice dessert.

Indian cuisine

Hrmm, okay, so I should find out what to do with the mango powder, at least.

What do I do with this? Make more kimchi?

Oh! I forgot to say that I did use this when I made pickled radishes, and in general, I do find it useful. I managed to use the other items in the category for things like chili oil and Korean pancakes.

Things I put in drinks

Oh! I have used all of these except the Thai pickled limes for drinks. I guess I just never blog about drinks I make.


The peppers turned out to be past due, the beans have been eaten and replaced, and the sardines have been superceded by new sardines and are best before next week, so I’ll put those on the “eat NOW” list.

Just use already

Oh man. I threw away the cheese culture, I made tapioca pudding last week, and other than that … I have no excuses.

Unique flavourings

Hrmm. No comment.

Staples & Condiments

I’ve actually used six of these, just not in anything blog worthy, or I just forgot. Like, I used the vanilla in pancakes but didn’t mention it. I have used the jasmine as a tea a few times.


Items used: 62 blogged about + 20 others in drinks and casually
Items thrown away: 3
Items catalogued but not yet used: 28

What’s next?

For the next six months, I think it only makes sense to give updates when I use things from the above list of as-yet-unused items. Anything I have not used by December (which seems so far away! I’ll devote myself to using over the holidays. Sounds fun?


A fully catered picnic

At least a year ago, maybe two, I was sitting in a park and I imagined a “pop-up picnic” vendor that would roll up with a cargo bike and sell full picnics complete with a blanket and a bottle of wine. In my fantasy, picnickers would get a tote bag filled with tasty food, plus all the things they’d need to enjoy them, like glasses and cutlery. I realized though that in reality you’d have better luck, financially, if the picnics were pre-ordered, the way one reserves and pre-pays for a supper club. Continue reading “A fully catered picnic”

Inventory – The 2016 Edition

As I promised in my last post, I have made a complete photograph-supported catalogue of my pantry, along with notes about items.

Looking at the items over and over as I photographed them, photo-edited them, titled them and captioned them, the following ten categories emerged:

  • Chinese cuisine
  • Japanese cuisine
  • Thai cuisine
  • Indian cuisine
  • What do I do with this? Make more kimchi?
  • Things I put in drinks
  • Ready-to-eat
  • Just use already
  • Unique flavourings
  • Staples & Condiments

I can’t imagine others care too much to read everything, but if you have been following along for this long, then I suggest you at least skip to the “Just use already” section. That is where the biggest challenges are.

Continue reading “Inventory – The 2016 Edition”

Branding produce

One of the things I missed upon returning to the US was being able to eat from a big “Netz” of clementines around Christmastime. We never had clementines growing up and I never remembered seeing them anywhere either. Mandarins were something that came in a can (it seems a clementine is a type of mandarin; I had to look it up since I was never sure if the reverse was true of if they were just synonyms). By the time I returned in 2008, there were clementines to be had, but they were expensive and not consistently good (though they’re not always consistent in Europe either). Continue reading “Branding produce”

Impulse buy: Syrian pumpkin jam

It's pumpkin. How bad can it be?
I should have known better.

I normally despise syrupy-sweet desserts but for some reason I decided earlier this week that I absolutely had to buy some “pumpkin jam” that was sitting at the checkout at my usual falafel spot/Middle Eastern grocery. I love every other pumpkin dessert I’ve tried, so why not? I asked the owner what it was and how you eat it. She said you just eat it as is and that it comes from her hometown. They’re having trouble getting it because of what’s going on in Syria right now, so she asked me to be sure to report back and tell her whether I liked it. Continue reading “Impulse buy: Syrian pumpkin jam”