Recipe: Bean Sprout Ponzu Salad

The other day Tara and I stopped by a sushi restaurant and were served a bean sprout salad. Although we did not ask what was inside of it, we put together this recipe based on what we thought it could have been made out of. You can always buy ponzu from the store, but I have included how to make it from scratch. Also, it has to rest for a couple hours, so keep that in mind if you’re hoping to eat this immediately.

Bean sprout ponzu salad

Bean sprout ponzu salad


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Coachella Camping Hacks

Camping at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival in Indio, California is often labeled a rite of passage for first-year festival attendees. The party does not end the second the last band leaves the main stage every night; there is something kinetic about the rowdy crowd. Campsite dance floors blast music hours after the venue locks its gates for the night, and other campers who are too wired to sleep re-cap their day and plot a schedule for the next one. This either sounds like a very good time, or a turnoff to those who only go to Coachella to see their favorite bands live.

Entering the venue

Entering the venue

So why, for five years (going on six) have I camped out rather than get a hotel? The answer is pretty simple: the camping community is welcoming and the benefits of not having to take a shuttle or drive to the venue every day makes the choice a no-brainer. Camping allows you to roll out of bed when you want, catch an afternoon nap, grab snacks or drinks of your choosing and it grants you the ability to slap a burger on the grill whenever you want. To me, camping at Coachella is not just a rite of passage, but also a way to improve your festival experience. Read on to help get the most out of your camping experience, and so you don’t spend your days waiting in line to take the shuttle into town to buy the essentials you forgot to bring. Continue reading

Baking Recipe: Pear Cranberry Ginger Pie

I prefer to cook than bake. I look at a recipe and feel like I can improvise more when it comes to cooking on a stove than in an oven. The creative side of my brain works better when something calls for a pinch or a dash versus exact measurements, temperatures, and times. So when I came into a box of Harry and David pears, I knew I was going to make a pie. Starting with a family apple pie recipe in my head, this is my take on a pear pie – plus ginger and cranberry for some added zest.

Pear Cranberry Ginger Pie

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Vietnamese Recipe: Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves

This is a delicious fish recipe I learned to cook in Hoi An, Vietnam. Mouthwatering goodness! If you can’t buy ingredients like turmeric and banana leaves at your local grocery store, seek out an Asian grocery store. You can ask them to order the ingredients you can’t find. If you absolutely cannot get banana leaves, try using corn husks (but you will need to soak them in water so they don’t burn on the grill). Wrapping the fish inside banana leaves or corn husks steams the fish and cooks it more evenly. At the bottom of this post I give a short review of the cooking class I attended in case you find yourself in Hoi An. I hope you enjoy the recipe. More to come!

Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves, serves 2

Grilled Fish in Banana Leaf

Delicious Vietnamese-style fish!

2 pieces, 8 oz each fresh mackerel
2 tbsp lemongrass, chopped finely (tip: smash it first with the knife blade to make it easier to chop)
4 three-inch pieces of lemongrass, smashed with the knife blade
8 thin slices of carrot (optional)
2 tsp shallots, diced finely
2 tsp garlic, diced finely (tip: smash with knife blade first, then dice)
2 tbsp turmeric, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar Continue reading

How the Heck Did I Lose 35+ Pounds on This Trip?

Little by little, I have been shedding weight. It was not a dramatic overnight change, but rather a healthy yearlong transformation. I would like to say exercise and a balanced diet were the reasons, but there is more to it. I suppose you could say the additional weight was a literal and metaphorical burden that I left in the United States. A more scientific approach would say that my portion sizes have shrunk and the street, hawker and restaurant food is generally (and surprisingly) healthy and fresh with few or no preservatives.

This is me on my wedding day.

This is me on my wedding day.

Before I address my weight loss, I first have to answer how I got to be overweight. In June 2012, just as Tara and I left the U.S., my weight hovered around 200 pounds, but I was not always this heavy. In high school, I had reached my current height of 5 feet 11 inches, but was a slender 135 pounds. Running track and playing soccer kept me slim, but this was also years before I knew what a pilsner or porter beer was. I maintained this weight throughout high school, and it only slightly increased during my first two years of college. During my junior and senior years, I studied film in the Czech Republic. Over that time I gained roughly 50 pounds. Continue reading

Spicing Up Our Cooking Skills

It took 22 days before we put down our chopsticks and asked, “Why have we not learned how to make this delicious food yet?” Tara had a hand in making som tam in the streets of Bangkok, but it was finally in Chiang Mai that we decided enough was enough — we needed to know how to make other mouthwatering Thai dishes.

Mike, Aon and Tara

Tara and Mike with Chef Aon.

There is no shortage of cooking classes in this Chiang Mai, but we are picky when it comes to learning new cuisines. Two boring and non-interactive culinary lessons in India made us very choosey when it came to selecting a class in Thailand. We wanted something with more pizzazz, and we found it in Red Chili Thai Cooking School.

Chef Aon has been operating Red Chili since the beginning of 2013 but already has a reputation as an enthusiastic newcomer to the Chiang Mai cookery school scene. As soon as we met him, we could see why: he’s young, gregarious and passionate about food. We immediately knew this was not going to be another uninspiring class. Continue reading

Kerala Kitchen: South Indian Side Dishes

The names of these side dishes were told to me in the local language, Malayalam, and the cooking instructor didn’t know how to translate them. They’re basically: cabbage with coconut, beetroot without coconut and okra (aka – bhindi, aka- lady’s fingers) without coconut. I’m sure they have fancy restaurant menu names, but I couldn’t figure them out. I’ve had each of them with thali at restaurants, but I don’t recall them as individual items on any menu. Oh well, who needs names anyway?

Last two recipes: Mixed Veg with Indian Gravy (North Indian) and Tomato Curry (South Indian)

Cabbage recipe, serves 2

Cabbage CookingIngredients
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds

½ medium-sized cabbage, sliced
½ medium-sized red onion, sliced
2 chilies, sliced length-wise  (This gives medium heat. Add more or less depending on your personal preference.)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup grated coconut
½ tsp salt

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