Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DIY Dumplings? Desire Dim Sum? Get Andrea Nguyen's book "Asian Dumplings"

Tricia and I are passionate Dim Sum-o wrestlers.  Living in Los Angeles, we are fortunate to have many good Dim Sum restaurants near us in Chinatown, Alhambra, and Gardenia.  However, we had been wondering lately -- how difficult would it be to make our own char shiu bao (steamed pork buns)?  Or har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings)?  After doing some research, all we knew was that it supposedly took years (nay, a lifetime) of professional training in the kitchens and/or culinary schools of Hong Kong to be good enough to be worthy of making these morsels.  Our dreams of DIY Dim Sum seemed hopelessly farfetched.

Then one day, while driving and listening to KCRW's Good Food podcast, I found out about Andrea Nguyen's new book entitled Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas and More.  It was as if a steamed dough crescent rainbow had formed over the 405!  Our soy sauce, chili and mustard prayers were answered!  

The book goes into a lot of detail and offers short cuts for making your own doughs.  If illustrations aren't enough for you, she's got instructional videos on the book's companion site asiandumplingtips.com.  Indian, Thai, Japanese, South American, Vietnamese and Fillipino dumpling lovers are not left out -- they too get recipes and techniques.  Seriously, if you want to make any sort of dumpling-esque food item, this book is for you.

So now we are building up our equipment list, taking the advice of Mrs. Nguyen and getting a tortilla press (!), and a wooden dowel to make into small, cheap rolling pins.  We're still tracking down some of the more exotic ingredients, like Shaoxing rice wine.  But hopefully soon I'll have photos up of our creations.

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posted by Brian at 3:44 PM 1 comments links to this post

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reading "The World Is Flat" is Not Off To a Good Start

A very popular book was recommended to me that sounded intriguing, The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman. I very much want to like it -- globalization and how technology has changed our world are both interesting topics. But page one, we're off to a very bad start, where it states Columbus proved to the Europeans once and for all that the world was round, not flat, as they allegedly believed.

WRONG. That is a myth. Pretty much any Christian in Europe after, oh, 1 AD or so knew the world was a globe. The Greeks certainly did. People were estimating the circumference of it as far back as 240 BC. From the Wikipedia:
The modern belief that especially medieval Christianity believed in a flat earth has been referred to as The Myth of the Flat Earth.[1] In 1945, it was listed by the Historical Association (of Britain) as the second of 20 in a pamphlet on common errors in history.[2] Recent scholarship[3] has argued that "with extraordinary [sic] few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat" and that the prevailing view was of a spherical earth.

Jeffrey Russell states that the modern view that people of the Middle Ages believed that the Earth was flat is said to have entered the popular imagination in the 19th century, thanks largely to the publication of Washington Irving's fantasy The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1828. Although these writers reject the idea of a flat earth, others such as the Flat Earth Society accept or promote the hypothesis.
Unfortunately, as late as 1983 textbooks have perpetuated this myth. I remember reading a children's book about Columbus in 5th grade in Texas and finding myself telling the teacher "This book is wrong." (She shook her head and went back to ignoring us.)

So how could a book written by a New York Times columnist no less be published with this glaring error? I'm hoping to get past the first chapter, but I'm not convinced I can. There's another problem in that Mr. Friedman seems to be mixing metaphors a lot, using "flat" when he means "fair" or "level"... or does he really mean "interconnected?" "Converging"? Perhaps "small" as in "It's a small world"? All of the above?

Now this myth will be read as truth by millions more people; it just won't die, ahousehold pest in the woodwork of historical accuracy. Thanks Mr. Friedman. Your head is flat, sir.

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posted by Brian at 6:51 PM 1 comments links to this post

Monday, March 24, 2008

TED: Dave Eggers and his After-School Pirate Supply Store Writing Center


A few years ago I went to a Revenge of the Bookeaters fund-raising event for Dave Eggers' 826 Valencia project, an after school writing program for kids. Dave put both a magazine and a tutoring center in one place so that kids could have one-on-one access with professional writers. What's novel about the San Francisco location is that it's not "Center for Teaching Kids Writing" or some dull name -- it's a crazy cool pirate accessory store! Having that sort of atmosphere expands kids' imaginations, and writing just becomes a means to express and dignify children's ideas. Other places have opened around the country and even Ireland, all with a nifty theme. One is time travellers accessory store, another a superhero store with a capery... I love it!

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posted by Brian at 9:00 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Storytime with Cephalopods


The L.A. Book Festival is coming up this week at UCLA.

Guests include Henry Winkler, Ray Bradbury, Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Dr. Phil, and Gore Vidal.

Sing with me: "One of these folks is not like the others. One of these folks just doesn't belong. Can you tell me which one is not like the others before I finish this song?"

If you guessed Ray Bradbury as the only professional writer in the group, you're absolutely right! (But you'd rather see The Fonz wouldn't you...)

UPDATE: I went on Sunday. Randomly, I wore my Avenue Q shirt. The moment I got there, I saw people carrying Avenue Q fans that were being passed out, advertising the fact that it will be coming to Los Angeles soon. Must have had three or more people either compliment me on my t-shirt, or ask where they could get one and the fan.

Oh, and I went to the Dr. Phil talk. Take that, you authors-without-daytime-TV-shows!

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posted by Brian at 12:17 AM 0 comments links to this post