Archive for July 2013 | Monthly archive page
In just under a week, Darren and I will spend two weeks traveling around Peru. About half of our time will be spent hiking and glamping the legendary Inca Trail, culminating in an early morning descent into the one and only Machu Picchu. However, we’ve also planned another week’s worth of adventures that we are equally excited about (okay I lied- perhaps not equally excited, but it looks and sounds promising nonetheless) that includes a visit to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and an excursion through the vast Colca Canyon. Darren and I will be traveling with two other friends for the entire two weeks, and our group for the Inca Trail includes an additional four friends that we are thrilled to be sharing this experience with. A lot of forethought and planning went into making this trip happen, which we began booking five months ago, and we’re hoping that sharing our itinerary and budget with you will help ease the stress that comes all too often with big travel.
Since the Inca Trail is a planning beast of its own, we’ll cover the planning, packing, and other goodies in a separate post. Oh, and we’re planning (as usual) to fit everything that we need into carryons, so we’ll share our packing list in –you guessed it- a separate post.
Please note that as this trip hasn’t actually happened yet, we cannot attest to the quality of each of the vendors we are using for our lodging and excursions. We’ll review and revise our recommendations as needed upon our return, but until then, rest assured that we did spend many hours combing through forums and reading reviews to ensure the best experience and value possible. I’ll go through the itinerary first, followed by a few extra tidbits of information and the estimated budget.
Whether you enjoy the occasional cocktail or you frequently partake in a nice, stiff sipper, nothing says welcome home (or welcome TO my home) like a well-stocked bar. In the first of this three-part series, I’ll go over how I got my own personal mini-bar started, so that you too can indulge your Mad Men fantasy (drinks, not the crazy affairs or chain smoking).
In the spirit of transparency, I have to admit that this idea (as well as the initial components) were the brainchild of my fabulous girlfriend Winnie. While I’ve always enjoyed a well-crafted cocktail, taking the time to prepare and build an elaborate drink always seemed too complicated, considering a nice beer would satiate the same need. However, for this past Christmas, W decided I should get a bit more classy and gifted me the beginnings of a minibar, including a serving/storing tray, a cocktail set, and some quality liquors.
So onto Part 1: The Basics. What you need to get started:
Tofu. Shrimp. Fried-ness. What’s not to love? You probably won’t find pipa tofu on your standard Chinese carryout menu (but are you really eating that crap? *puts on judging goggles*). If you’re at a higher end restaurant you might see it on the menu- if not, ask the waiter and they will hopefully know what you’re talking about. Or you could take off your lazy pants and whip this up at home. I made these for a friend that stayed with us for the weekend a while back, and she asked to eat leftovers of this for two meals (in addition to dinner). Yea, they’re pretty tasty.
But first off, the question you’ve all been wondering: what is a ‘pipa’? Good question, friends. A pipa (pronounced PEE -pah) is a traditional Chinese string instrument that looks like so:
Pipa tofu is named after the pipa’s shape, but in reality I think the tofu ends up taking on an oval shape as it gets fried. Maybe that’s just a commentary on my frying abilities.
Basically you gather some ingredients together, mash them all up, form them into little pipa shapes – *cough* oval – and fry. You can deep fry the tofu, and it will taste amazeballs. Or you can opt for the healthier option and pan fry them instead. They’ll still taste amazeballs. Your call.
Serve the pipa tofu on a bed of bok choy or Shanghai bok choy, and accompanying sauce on top.
Ingredients and recipe after the jump.
Let’s talk about comfort food. A piping hot bowl of broth, flavored with fragrant sesame oil and tender loving care. Baby bok choy greens. A satisfied tummy. And wontons…lots of wontons.
Literally translated, ‘wonton’ means ‘swallowing a cloud’. While various Chinese regional cuisines have their separate interpretations of wontons, I’m going to talk about Cantonese wontons today- because that’s what I crave when comfort food-itis pops up. Growing up, I recall skipping around the kitchen, helping (okay, pestering) my mother and grandmother as they folded a batch of wontons. You don’t make a single serving of wontons. Instead, you make as many as you have wrappers for (a typical pack contains around 75) and freeze the remainder. This makes wontons an excellent now and later dish.
Folding wontons requires an itty-bitty learning curve, but goes quickly once you get the hang of it. If you’re with a group of friends or have willing minions, the wontons are folded even quicker. Wonton folding party, anyone?
Recipe after the jump.