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Posted on Aug 12, 2013 in Blogging | 4 comments

Tea Ceremony, Part II

Hey strangers,

So as some of you might remember, I’ve spent the past 30 days on the road and back again, literally. After my legendary trip to Ireland, I was back in town for a mere 4 days before flying down to Houston for my grandmother’s 83rd birthday. (This was a precursor to the giant family reunion for my Dad’s side that we attended in Oregon afterwards.)

Since my grandmother is not able to travel, my brother and his wife also did another traditional tea ceremony, just like the one that was performed at their rehearsal dinner back in May.


My aunt and uncle weren’t able to attend the wedding either, so they were also tea-ceremonied. And since I guess it’s Chinese tradition to serve tea to ALL your elders — even if you’ve already done it for them — my parents got a second turn! 🙂


It’s tradition for the bride and groom to be given a gift from their elders, and I guess in particular it’s very common for the bride to be given jewelry. Which, all I can say is, I can’t WAIT for my own wedding tea ceremony if it means I get bangin’ jewelry like Tay did!

I played the role of photographer for the day, of course, so I’m actually only in one of the pictures. And, in true fashion, it’s the photo with food, hahaha.

A dim sum feast!

So there you go: Just one half of my SUPERDUPER family-filled week! Hopefully by next time, the photos from Oregon will be edited and you guys can see the white side of my fam, hahahaha.

Tally-ho!

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Posted on Jul 29, 2013 in Food, Recipes | 11 comments

Homemade Bubble Milk Tea

So, I throw the word “Whasian” around here a lot. And yes, I know it’s partly because I have a bit of a complex about people not knowing that I’m half-Chinese… since I don’t look particularly Asian (except for maybe a handful of times of year, which usually coincide with things like Chinese New Year or my brother’s Chinese Banquet-style rehearsal dinner). Though, to be fair, I went on a cruise with my family the summer after my Freshman year in college, and the ship’s photographer thought that I was Ben’s girlfriend (gross) rather than an actual part of my family. So I think said complex is at least somewhat understandable.

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ANYWAY. For as much as I mention my ethnicity on this blog, I don’t really highlight too many Chinese recipes. Mostly, this is because my mom is such an amazing cook that I don’t dare try to copy her recipes for fear of ruining the dishes for myself. But that’s not to say I don’t prepare my fair share of Chinese cuisine. I love whipping up a batch of frozen xiao long bao at home (steamed soup dumplings), I adore going out to dim sum, and I am absolutely OBSESSED with bubble milk tea.

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Bubble milk tea, boba, pearl milk tea, zhen zhu nai cha — whatever you call it, I love it. I was first introduced to this most magic of beverages during the three years I spent living in Taiwan, and to this day it is one of the surest ways to make me a happy, happy girl. Unfortunately, all the most authentic bubble milk tea places around here seem to be up in Rockville, and I don’t enjoy braving Seven Corners traffic enough to frequent the Eden Center on a regular basis. So, I’ve had to figure out ways to satisfy my total obsession occasional craving on my own.

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Now, admittedly, I cheat and use a milk tea powder more often than not. But! For you folks, who have probably come here to read at least a somewhat healthy-ish recipe, I decided to brew up a batch from scratch. You’re very welcome. 😉

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Introducing my very own taste-tested and Whasian-approved recipe for bubble milk tea. And because I love you guys so much, I even made it dairy-free, don’tcha know! I used regular ol’ black tea bags, but if you really want to go authentic, head for your nearest Asian grocery store and pick up a can of looseleaf Hong Kong-style black tea. Also, since I imagine most of you don’t keep the pearls in your pantry, you can zip right over to Amazon.com and pick up a pack of tapioca pearls, along with some of those nifty fat bubble tea straws.

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Bubble Milk Tea
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

4 black tea bags, or equivalent looseleaf black tea
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup uncooked tapioca pearls
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 cup unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze almond milk
Ice (optional)

Instructions:

1. Steep tea in boiling water. You are aiming for a very strong brew, so let steep for a good 8 – 10 minutes. It is also best to allow the tea to cool somewhat before mixing your milk tea.
2. While tea is steeping, heat water on stove in a small or medium sauce pot until boiling. Add tapioca pearls and cook until all pearls float to the top, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add sugar to pot and stir just until dissolved. Cover and let sit for an additional 5 minutes. Reserve about half of the tapioca pearls and sugar water for each serving of bubble tea.
3A. For frozen bubble milk tea, add tea, milk, sugar water from the pearls, and ice cubes to a blender, and blend until ice is fully incorporated. Add tapioca pearls and enjoy!
3B. For regular bubble milk tea, simply combine tea, milk, and sugar water in a pitcher or glass, then add pearls. If the mixture is not cool enough, you may add ice cubes or refrigerate* the tea first. Enjoy!

*Do not refrigerate the pearls in the tea — store them in the sugar water separately. The pearls become hard when cold, and will need to be reheated in the microwave to become soft again.

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So there you have it. You can add as much or as little additional sweetener as necessary to achieve the desired taste of your milk tea, but I tried to keep it fairly light. As mentioned, you can store any leftover pearls in the sugar water mixture (a mixture of water and honey is also a great preserver, and gives good flavor to the pearls). Just reheat the pearls for about 30 seconds in the microwave if you decide to use them later! Easy peasy.

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

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Posted on May 16, 2013 in Dear Diary, Food | 7 comments

Ben & Taylor’s Rehearsal Dinner

Or, that time my family went all MEGA CHINESE on everyone, and also we ate an entire pig.

I kinda like that second title better, don’t you?

So a LOT OF STUFF WENT DOWN this past weekend! And though I wish I could jump straight into recapping my brother’s (and new sister-in-law’s) wedding, alas, I have only a handful of meager Instagram photos from the actual event. And since I want to do the entire thing justice (since, seriously, it was SO amazing you guys. And you know how seriously I take weddings, so don’t think I say that lightly, haha), I think I’ll wait ’til I at least get some teaser shots back from the wedding photographer. (I was a bridesmaid, which is why I didn’t take any actual photos of my own.)

However, I *did* get to play photographer (or, more specifically, was commanded–very nicely!–by my mother) at the rehearsal dinner, which was an affair all its own.

For my sister’s wedding back in 2008, and now Ben’s wedding, my family has participated in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony as part of the rehearsal dinner festivities. This is a Chinese custom where the couple to be married offer tea to all their elders, who then give the couple hong bao (red packets) with money, as well as their well-wishes/advice for their impending marriage.

I do actually think it’s a really cool and special tradition, and hope that I get to participate in one when my day comes too (though I don’t think that’s really in jeopardy — my mom would never allow me NOT to, I’m pretty sure). So my dad helped explain what was a-goin’ on to the guests who were less well-versed in Chinese customs, and then they got to it! First my parents…

Then Taylor’s mom and pops…

And her grandparents…


My (last remaining) grandmother isn’t able to travel, so in July, the newlyweds, my parents, and I will be heading down to Houston to perform the tea ceremony for her there.

But that isn’t to say that the Ho Family wasn’t well-represented at the blessed event! In fact, almost all of my aunts and uncles, as well as all of Taylor’s extended family, were present at the rehearsal dinner. So Ben and Tay did the tea ceremony with them as well. I’m sure you guys don’t particularly care to see those pics though (they’re really just a lot more of the same), so I’ll skip right ahead to this one:

See? I told you we ate a whole pig. They served it Peking-style, with the pork replacing what would traditionally be duck (and we would’ve had to have A LOT of ducks to feed that many people, so in the end I think it was a good choice. Sandwiched into a pancake with some hoisin sauce and spring onion, you could barely even tell the difference! Even the more squeamish of guests really seemed to enjoy the “pork tacos” (as they referred to them, haha) once they got over the whole, y’know, head thing.

And in case you were wondering, there was a ton of other food, too, of course! Noodles and shrimp fried rice and spring rolls… It was a real Chinese banquet! Other than the random lasagna that they had as a vegetarian option, that is. That dish was not so much, hahahaha.

But just in case the other pictures of food weren’t enough to help transition away from the fact that there was an ENTIRE PIG SERVED AT THE REHEARSAL DINNER (clearly I’m not really even over it yet), I have something else for you:

Yes, my perfect little niece Mia was there too, looking cute as all get out in her ladybug outfit. I almost hate that I’m so obsessed with my niece now. I swore I wouldn’t be that guy! Oh wel, whatcha gonna do? It’s not MY fault she’s so cute — blame my sister and her hubster for that (though a lot of my aunts do say that she looks a lot like me! Heeeeee!)

Mia was actually on pretty amazing behavior for a not-quite-8-weeks-old baby, both during the rehearsal dinner AND during the wedding! Except when I started taking pictures with the flash. That she did not like so much.

Hahahahahaaaaaahaha.


Can you believe *I’m* the baby of the family? From smallest to tallest…

So yes! The entire event was really nice, and very special for both families, I think. I loved that Tay’s family seemed to really embrace it all–just like my sister’s husband’s family did when they all experienced it!

Taylor’s mom even wore a cheongsam–the traditional Chinese dress that she and Taylor are wearing. Fun fact: the red dress Taylor is wearing is actually my mother’s wedding dress!

Well, one of her wedding dresses, at any rate. (During a Chinese wedding, the bride actually changes outfits like four times, hahaha.)



It was a really special way to kick Ben and Taylor’s final day of non-wedded life. Their final, super duper Asian day, hahahaha. 🙂


Gan bei!

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Posted on Sep 14, 2011 in Food | 20 comments

Mid-Autumn Festival

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, friends!

Moon CakeHot, hot, hot!

You know our family loves our Chinese lunar celebrations! Technically, Monday was the actual date of the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a Chinese lunar harvest festival. Since our family wasn’t able to do anything on Monday, we made Tuesday the day to celebrate instead!

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The ‘rents, the bro, Taylor and I all ventured out to the Hong Kong Palace in Seven Corners for dins. Mom was naturally in charge of ordering, and we ended up with quite a spread!

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Spicy lamb dish

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Bok choy with mushrooms

I didn’t take pictures of all of it (there was also fried fish, giant prawns with spinach, and kung pao chicken!), but suffice it to say it was good eats.

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My (first) plate, hehe.

Unfortunately, I’m feeling a little under the weather (yet again) and my throat was/is literally on fire (perhaps I wore it out vlogging? Haha) so I didn’t get to eat as much Kung Pao as I would have under normal circumstances.

Luckily, my favorite part of the Mid-Autumn Festival is not spicy in the least!

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MOONCAKE!!!

Mooncake is a traditional festival treat made with a filling of sugar and lotus seed paste (sounds so appetizing, I know, but I love it!) and sometimes baked with an egg yolk inside (the “moon”, which I don’t actually like, so fortunately this one didn’t have one.)

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My mama brought one to the restaurant for us to share! Which is necessary, because just one of these little 4-inch suckers could set you back at least 800 calories! Yikes.

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I think NOM pretty much covers it.

Don’t worry though. Even though dessert was mooncake, I couldn’t end my night at a Chinese restaurant without a proper Chinese fortune:

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Finally, the Deus Ex Fortune Cookie I’ve been waiting for to answer all of the “what am I going to do with my life?” questions! I wish there were such a thing as a food lawyer. I think I would be really great at defending the peas. 😉

Are there any less-mainstream holidays or traditions that you celebrate? I love my Whasian heritage because it lets me run the gamut in terms of holidays to celebrate. Plus, I get two New Years!

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Posted on Apr 19, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food, Recipes | 16 comments

Updating My Traditions

 

 

Thank you to Log Cabin for sponsoring my post about updated traditions in my household. To learn more about Log Cabin Syrups (which are all free of High Fructose Corn Syrup), breakfast for dinner, and other new ways to update traditions in your home, click here. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

 

 

 

If any of you loverly readers out there have perused the sidebar of my blog, you’ll see that under my shining face is a li’l mini-bio of yours truly complete with the word “Whasian.” For those of you who are unaware, “Whasian” is a portmanteau (check out that word usage!) term for people of combined Caucasian and Asian heritage. For example:

White (like my Oregonian Father):

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Plus Asian (like my Chinese Mama):

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Equals Whasian:

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The first photo is of my siblings, myself, and our equally Whasian cousin. Naturally I tried to pick photos that highlight my “mix” the most. Since, you know, I currently look like this:

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True story: When my family and I went on a cruise vacation after my Freshman year of college, the boat photographer thought that I was Ben‘s GIRLFRIEND, not his sister! Augh! Gross! The humiliation!

ANYWAY. Growing up, my mom would make us fantastic, home-cooked Chinese meals that she had learned from her mother, that her mother had learned from her mother, and so on, and so forth. Tradition is a HUGE part of Chinese culture, and it also happens to play a big role on Pop’s side of the family tree as well. It’s always been important for me to try and incorporate traditions of both sides of my family into my daily life.

Fully inspired by both my Chinese and Caucasian heritage, I offer you…

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Sweet ‘N’ Whasian Tofu
Print this recipe!

This was a brand new recipe for me because until Sunday I have the added challenge of making everything I ate vegan as well, but I think it still definitely embraces its purpose. It’s a healthy, vegan update of one of my mom’s most famed and delicious traditional dishes, Sweet and Sour Pork! Her traditional recipe includes pork butt (heehee) and a sauce that includes a good deal of sugar. I added in some good old fashioned American touches by way of Vermont (maple syrup, a lower calorie sugar alternative) and even good ol’ Oregon in the form of grapes (channeling those Willamette Valley wines!) and a few berries (of the blue variety.)

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Sauce:

2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp ketchup (normally I would have used organic ketchup, but I was lazy and didn’t want to go to the store, hahaha.)
1 tsp corn starch or flour (I used whole wheat flour)
Salt & Pepper

Whisk sauce ingredients together. Set aside. Ta-da!

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Main Dish:

1 block extra firm tofu
1 red bell pepper
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup edamame
1 cup red grapes
1/4 cup blueberries

Press your tofu. You can either do this with a tofu press, which I obviously don’t own, or by putting the block of tofu in between two heavy things lined with paper towels, with more heavy things on top.

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See, Laura? I’m already putting my birthday wine to good use! 😉

After the tofu is even firmer and a lot of the moisture has been pressed out of it, cut it into adorable little cubes. Chopping tofu is so fun! If you like, you can throw a quick little marinade over it in a bowl – I did 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce to let the flavor really soak in.

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Then toss into a sauté pan, heated to medium heat with the oil of your choice (I used coconut.)

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I’ve found the secret to really great tofu is to let it sit and cook long enough until it starts to really brown. Mm-mmm. Next step is to toss in the veggies (but not the fruit!)

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Remember that sauce we set aside? Add it, yo!

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Let the sauce simmer and sizzle and reduce until it’s all delicious and thick and nom-tastic.

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Finally toss in the grapes and bluebs, then dish it out! I served up mine on a half-cup of quinoa, so I guess you can add another dimension of America (as in, South, get it?) in for this dish, hehehe.

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Consume with chopsticks or fork, at your leisure. 🙂

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It turned out great! Sweet, savory, a little sour and totally delicious. Success! What are some ways that you’ve updated some family traditions of your own?

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