Lemon Coconut Bars

The weather is really starting to heat up, which means I’ve been moving away from chocolate. Something about 80 degree weather and no air conditioning makes me want fruit… Am I the only one that gets this way in the summer? If only I still had my ice cream maker! I may have to buy a new one to get through this New York heat.

Lemon Coconut Bars from Square Root of Pie

Lemon Coconut Bars
Makes one 9″x13″ pan. Can be gluten free.

Ingredients
for the crust
1 1/2 C flour (I used gluten free)
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 1/2 stick butter, cold
for the filling
4 eggs
1 1/3 C sugar
1/2 C lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
1 C shredded coconut

Instructions
1.
Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease a 9″x13″ pan.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour and powdered sugar, and cut in butter until a crumbly dough is formed.
3. Press dough into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 min.
4. While the crust is in the oven, beat eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and baking powder in a large bowl.
5. Pour lemon filling over baked crust. Sprinkle coconut on top.
6. Bake for another 20-25 minutes until filling is set. Let cool, slice, and enjoy.

Lemon Coconut Bars from Square Root of Pie

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Chocolate Banana Swirl Cakes

This is the time in the year where I’m moving out and frantically try to use up all my ingredients. I have tons of leftover flour and sugar, so I dig through my cabinet to find flavors. This was what I came up with the other day… chocolate, banana, and coconut!

Chocolate Banana Swirl Cakes from Square Root of Pie

Chocolate, Coconut, Banana Swirl Cakes
Makes 1 dozen.

Ingredients
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
dash salt
1 C sugar
1/3 C oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 small very ripe bananas
1/4 C cocoa powder
1/2 C milk
1/3 C shredded coconut (optional)

Instructions
1.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, powder, soda, and salt.
3. In a smaller bowl, mix sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla. Add wet to dry and combine. Mixture will be crumbly.
4. Mash bananas in another bowl, and pour in half the batter mixture. Mix well.
5. Add cocoa powder, milk, and coconut (if desired) to remaining batter.
6. Pour a spoonful of each batter into each cupcake liner. Swirl with a knife or toothpick. Sprinkle with extra coconut.
7. Bake 20 min until a knife comes out clean. Let cool before serving.

Chocolate Banana Swirl Cakes from Square Root of Pie

Fly Lice

Christmas in Bangkok! By far the least Christmassy Christmas I’ve ever had. I went with one of my friends (hello, I know you’re reading) and her friend from home who was visiting. I didn’t take the same flight as them, so I got to have a fun three hours waiting at the airport by myself, but it was okay in the end. Just like Taipei, Bangkok was mostly temples, shopping, and street food, and I was okay with that.

Our first day, we wanted to go to some of the cool temples near the river. We pretty much got scammed by a tuk-tuk driver into taking a very expensive longboat instead of the public ferry, but as far as scams go, it wasn’t the end of the world. After that though, it was all ferry all the time. Definitely the coolest form of public transportation I’ve ever taken.

First stop: the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. It’s a gigantic statue of Buddha laying down, and it looks even bigger because it’s in a room barely big enough for it. Very impressive. The bottom of Buddha’s feet have a really intricate mother-of-pearl design, and the walls inside the building are painted as a huge, extremely detailed mural. After that, we went to Khao San Road and then Patpong Night Market. So much cheap shopping! Lots of cheesy souvenirs and bad knockoffs, sure, but I managed to find a few decent things. There were also plenty of food carts, so I might as well go into the street food now.

Pad thai pad thai pad thai. I think I had it three or four times, including Christmas dinner. Stir fried noodles with shrimp, egg, peanuts, sprouts, chili, lime, green onions, yum yum yum. Also satay, fresh squeezed juice, Thai tea, scrambled eggs with rice, mango sticky rice, fried bananas, red curry, green curry… We ate so many meals on the street. Pretty much everything I’ve had before, since Thai is tied with Mexican for my favorite cuisine, but obviously it was a lot cooler (and cheaper) eating Thai food in the street in Thailand than at a restaurant here in Los Angeles. What was new to me, though, was coconut pancakes. They’re not like fluffy pancakes, but rather a crunchy shell filled with cream and coconut shavings. We had those our second day, at the floating market.

We booked a day tour since everything we wanted to see that day was at least two hours outside the city. First stop was the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi. Plenty of boats and stalls were selling tourist crap, but I was way more interested in the real stuff. Little old ladies sitting in the water cutting fresh produce or handing bowls of hot noodles to people standing on the side of the canal. Definitely awesome to see. We took a boat through the market and then looped around through other parts of the canal where people actually live.

These houses were gorgeous! Sure, they were all a bit run down, but most were pretty big and almost all of them had tons of potted plants and other decorations out front. It was so beautiful. After that, we hopped back on the bus which took us to lunch.

This meal was really different than I expected. Not at all spicy like Thai food usually is – just really fresh tasting. Tons of bell peppers, onions, tofu, pineapple, cashews, and – my favorite – broccoli. Then we were off to the River Kwai Bridge, and finally, the place I was excited for most: the Tiger Temple.

It’s a conservation center run by monks. Some tigers are born there, but a lot are brought in as cubs after their mothers are killed by poachers. There were so many tigers! You wait in line for a bit, and then get two volunteers assigned to you: one holds your hand and walks you from tiger to tiger, where you sit and rub their adorable tiger bellies for a bit, and another takes pictures for you. Besides that you can walk around the rest of the center on your own. They also have other animals, like boars and deer, and you might run into a monk taking a tiger for a walk. Such an unbelievable experience.

Right near Wat Pho is the Grand Palace, which is half official government buildings, half temple, all tourist attraction. We went on Christmas day. The buildings are really beautiful, completely covered in tile and gold. They have a free tour in English a couple times a day, and we were lucky enough to get there right as one was starting. We got to learn all about what the different statues represent, the types of architecture, the function of each of the government buildings, etc. Afterward we went to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It has something like 8,000 stalls, making it the largest in southeast Asia. It’s definitely a local market – souvenirs were actually hard to find amongst all the clothes, dishes, furniture, and food. We went more just to see the market than to do any actual shopping, but I did get something amazing:

Coconut ice cream, served in the coconut it was made from, topped with red beans, sticky rice, and pineapple jelly. Merry Christmas to me.

For our last days we laid on the beach and got tans, and then just walked around a bit. Sometimes my favorite thing to do is just walk around and look at people going about their business. The sidewalks in Bangkok are overly crowded with people cooking different foods, and any alley big enough to accomodate a market is filled with stalls of fresh fruit.

Thailand was amazing. I want to go back. Maybe not Bangkok – after five days, I definitely feel like I got a sense of what the city is about – but somewhere else definitely. Just for the food.

66 Degrees Fahrenheit

That’s the lowest temperature ever recorded in Singapore. That is also the #1 reason I am moving to Singapore.

I had such an amazing weekend! We did so much in two and a half days. It was me and one of the girls who went with me to Malaysia, which was really nice. Even though we arrived late Thursday night, we got to an early start on Friday so we could do as much as possible. We planned it out so that we spent most of our time around the downtown area, that way we could enjoy the nice weather and walk from place to place. First stop: Chinatown.

All of the buildings are super adorable in a cheesy Disneyland sort of way, and every shop just has tables full of useless crap – exactly what we all know and love about Chinatown. The best were all of the t-shirts listing all the strange things that are illegal in Singapore, like chewing gum and dancing in public without a permit.

By 11:30 we were already hungry for lunch, since our lavish breakfast at the hostel was just white bread and Nutella. There was a street full of food carts, which we were really excited about, but even by noon none of them were open! Instead we sat down at a little place with tons of different types of fruit juice and some snack food. That’s a huge difference between Hong Kong and Singapore – juice. Real juice is so difficult to find here, but there’s an abundance of “juice drink.” Anything that says “orange juice” is really a lot closer to Sunny D than anything else, and the only way to guarantee it’s actual OJ is to get the ones imported from Florida that are super expensive.

My friend got lime juice, which was more like limeade and really refreshing, and I got a coconut. Literally, a coconut chopped open. You can’t get fresher than that. They also had watermelon, papaya, guava, mango, dragon fruit, and even sugar cane. We weren’t really sure how you get juice from a sugar cane, which in case you’re unfamiliar looks like a big stick, but someone ordered it while we were eating. They have a machine that literally just squishes the sugar cane and you hold a cup underneath to collect all the juice that comes out. Afterward you’re left with a big pulpy thing that used to be the sugar cane, and a big glass of juice! We also got a platter of chicken, beef, pork, and lamb satay with deliiiicious peanut sauce – one of the things I loved eating as a kid. I don’t think I had ever had lamb before, either, but it just tasted like beef to me. That peanut sauce was amazing though, with just the right amount of spice to it. After we finished I started dipping the cucumber garnish into it just to eat more!

Next stop was Marina Bay. From there you can see the beautiful skyline, the Marina Bay Sands hotel (it’s like three buildings with a boat on top, very strange), the big Durian building, and most importantly, the Merlion.

They are obsessed with this Merlion thing. It’s literally a lion mermaid. The one in Marina Bay is the original, but there are several other statues around Singapore, and more souvenirs than you could ever want. Apparently the meaning behind it is that Singapore means “lion city” in Malay, but it started as a fishing village, so the statue combines those two ideas in a kind of cheesy way. Also at Marina Bay is the Singapore Flyer, a huuuuge Ferris wheel, but we wanted to wait until nighttime for that.

We walked to an area called Kampong Glam, which is like a Malay/Muslim version of Chinatown. A woman pointed us down one of the roads, Haji Lane, saying there were “tons of cute little boutiques down there” – that was the beginning of our good luck that day.

Every store on that street became a struggle for me not to spend tons of money. A lot of the stores reminded me of Anthropologie, and they were almost all Singaporean designers. So many buildings were covered in gorgeous graffiti murals, too. Seriously, favorite street ever!

After that, we were hungry for another snack, so we walked by a Moroccan restaurant nearby. There was an older couple sitting outside, and a woman told us the food was really great and suggested we eat there. She was very interested in where we were from, why we were visiting, etc; she said she had moved from Texas to Singapore, so she loved meeting American tourists. Can you believe that?! Moving from Texas, to Singapore? We were so surprised!

We ordered a chickpea dish in a tomato sauce and baba ghanoush. Moroccan food is very interesting – they have the same dishes I’ve eaten a million times but they’re a little different. For example, this baba ghanoush had tons of cilantro in it, which I had never seen before, but was absolutely delicious! The Texan lady was right, the food there was really good. When she finished her food, she said goodbye to us, and a few minutes later the woman running the restaurant told us she had paid for our food. Literally, our mouths were wide open in shock. That’s definitely one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me! That was our second round of good luck for the day.

After that, we decided to head back toward the Flyer, but we had a stop to make first: Kenko Foot Reflexology and Fish Spa. Yes, that’s right. I paid money to put my feet in a fish tank for twenty minutes and let the fish eat off my dead skin.

Honestly, it tickled more than anything. The fish are so small, and when they nibble on you it feels like a little vibration. I couldn’t keep my feet in there for longer than about a minute at a time because it just tickled way too much.

By the time we were done getting eaten, it was raining too hard for the Flyer to fly. It looked like it was letting up a little though, so we walked back to Marina bay to the Helix Bridge. It’s actually a DNA double helix! There are even little lights along the ground that say “a,” “t,” “c,” and “g,” but I couldn’t find if it’s actually the sequence for anything.

Finally, the Flyer was back up and running. You can see all of Marina Bay from the top! I am so glad we waited until nighttime, because all the lights were absolutely beautiful.

By now, it’s like nine o’clock. We’ve been going going going all day nonstop for about twelve hours, and we’re hungry. We take the train over to Newton Food Centre, which is described online as a “food orgy,” and that’s exactly what it was. Tons and tons of food. Everywhere. You can’t walk three feet without someone shoving a menu in your face telling you that their chili crab is “the best.” Funny, because almost every place uses the exact same pictures on their menu! We found the one with the cheapest chili crab, $3.50 for 100g, and sat down.

This is where we had good luck numbers 3 and 4. A couple leaving right as we sat down suggested we order the “fried dough,” which was really great for sopping up all the chili sauce from the crab, and the guy who sat down after them gave us pretty good instructions on how to break open the crab. This was the messiest meal I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

The picture on the bottom right is stingray. My friend really wanted to try it, but I was pretty scared. I mean, before this trip, I hadn’t eaten meat in almost nine years, and now you’re asking me to eat a stingray?! I said I would taste it. Just a little bit. Wow, I ate way more than a little bit. It was delicious! We were expecting it to be sort of chewy or something, but it was more just like a really dense fish, and not a really fishy flavor, either. It’s grilled, with a spicy chili sauce on top, plus you squeeze lime juice all over it. I had never eaten a crab before either, so this day was full of new adventures in food! Plus, we got to try sugar cane juice. It wasn’t as sweet as I expected, actually, and had a bit of a vegetable flavor, if that makes any sense.

We had sufficiently worked our way into food comas and were ready for bed. After navigating the bus system back (every bus stop lists every stop for all the buses that go there – so useful!!) we stopped in the bar under our hostel for a Singapore Sling. It’s pretty much the tourist drink of choice there. It looks nice and girly, but it was pretty strong, and I didn’t finish it. Also, I’m not sure how close this bar sticks to the original recipe – I guess everywhere does it a little differently – but here is the original from the Raffles Hotel in case you want to try it for yourself. Wikipedia says that should be a pineapple, not a lemon wedge, and it shouldn’t have any ice, so honestly who knows what I was drinking.

On Saturday we got up early again and made our way to Sentosa. It’s a super touristy resort island – they even have a Universal Studios – but we just went for the beach.

It’s all manmade, but still gorgeous. The sand is so soft and the water was ridiculously warm. One of the beaches, Palawan, has a bridge to a teeny little island that is apparently the southernmost point in continental Asia, which was kind of cool. I fell asleep on the beach and got a nice tan. Just to make all of you in Pittsburgh jealous.

We went to a food court for lunch and I got “fried carrot cake.” I knew it obviously wasn’t carrot cake in the way we think about it; the picture looked like an omelet. This is what I got:

It was DELICIOUS. There was a bunch of egg underneath, so the photo wasn’t a complete lie at least. There was definitely no carrots in here, though. I thought it was just rice noodles or something, but Wikipedia says it’s actually made from radishes, and it has the name “carrot cake” because the word for radish can also refer to carrots. Also, the Wiki picture looks like what I had, so whatever picture they were using at this place is just completely wrong I guess.

Saturday night we went to the Night Safari. It’s a separate section of the zoo that’s only open from 7:30pm to midnight. Some places you can walk around, including a room full of bats that fly right by you oh my god I was screaming, but most of the animals you can only see from the tram ride. Animals like elephants, tigers, and hyenas are in a contained area, but all the different types of deer and cattle are pretty much free roaming. There were even a couple of Malayan tapirs grazing just a couple feet away from where I was sitting on the tram!

Finally on Sunday morning, before we had to go to the airport, we borrowed a couple of bikes from the hostel and rode around East Coast Park. There’s a pier where tons of people camp out to fish, and we even saw a guy catch a couple of stingrays. The bike ride was a really nice, relaxing way to end the weekend.

We stopped at a cute ice cream shop by the bus stop, Ice Cream Chefs. They had such interesting flavors, like milk tea, creme brulee, passion kiwi, durian, and adzuki (red) bean. I got pandan flavor with some cookie crumbs mixed into it. I’m definitely going to keep some of these flavors in mind when I bust out my ice cream maker again next summer – I bet milk tea wouldn’t be too difficult to make.

Overall, I had a really wonderful time in Singapore, but one thing was nagging me the entire time: it’s so not Asian there. Everyone speaks English first, unlike Hong Kong where people always try Cantonese with me, and especially in the downtown area everyone is white. Besides the weather and coconut trees, if you had said to me I was in the US, I would have believed you. I thought Hong Kong was pretty westernized, but it’s nothing compared to Singapore. Maybe it’s different if you’re outside of the really touristy areas, but I honestly felt like I left Asia for the weekend.

I have a new favorite food.

Sago. Well, sago pudding. This is my new favorite food dessert food. Sago is kind of like tapioca, and they put it into a cold, sweet soup. It’s so light and refreshing and not too sweet. I swear, I can eat that stuff everyday! They make lots of flavors with different fruits in the soup.

I’ve been having too much dessert lately. On Tuesday, I went to a dessert place called Honeymoon (it’s a chain, you can find them here) with some friends and a couple of local students. We had no idea what to get, so we told the local girls to just order whatever they wanted us to try. I didn’t get any photos, unfortunately, because it was right after class and I didn’t have my camera, but I will definitely be going back! We had a lot, so let’s see if I can remember it all.

  • Pineapple parfait, which was like really icy ice cream. Very light and sweet.
  • Durian mochi things. The local girls thought they would gross us out, but I actually liked it! I don’t mind the smell of durian like a lot of other people do. Durian is that big, spiky, smelly thing.
  • Mango sago with vanilla ice cream and pomelo (a type of citrus).
  • Tofu pudding with sesame soup and green tea ice cream. The tofu pudding is white, not quite as firm as Jello, and tastes like almonds; the sesame is black and thick with a nutty flavor; and the green tea ice cream was like forest green and tasted like TEA. I mean hardcore, straight up tea, not the sugary stuff at home. But honestly, take a second and imagine those colors. Black, white, and green. The presentation was beautiful when it came out, but when it got all mixed up in the bowl that stuff looked like Star Wars. I’m not kidding, intergalactic desserts here in Hong Kong.
  • A really eggy warm custard served IN THE EGG SHELL. I don’t know how they hollowed it out but honestly I don’t want to know. I want to keep believing it was magic.
  • These warm, mochi-like dough balls served with crushed peanuts and I think honey. You stick one of the balls with a toothpick and roll it in the peanuts. By far my favorite.

Needless to say, this dessert was basically an entire meal and I am SO SAD I didn’t get pictures. That’s why I brought my camera last night when I got dessert again!

This time it wasn’t at Honeymoon – we went to some hole in the wall type place here in Hung Hom, right by the dorms. We had mango/pomelo sago, strawberry sago, and a coconut custard thing.

The custard was so good! It was warm, which I wasn’t expecting, and not overly coconutty.

I love sago pudding. It is my new go-to dessert for sure. The mango one here was even better than the one at Honeymoon, I think, and walking distance from the dorm! I better not get fat from all the sago I’m going to eat.

My classes here have been riddikulus. (Yes, I did just say “riddikulus,” like the spell to vanish a Boggart.) My computer science classes are pretty awful. They’re on Monday and Tuesday evening until 10 o’clock at night!  Both are pretty big lectures, and all the students talk nonstop. Seriously, they just jabber away in Cantonese the whole time while the professors talk. Don’t they get upset or offended? That kind of disrespect would never fly at CMU. There were some other exchange students in my Artificial Intelligence class, but I am not exaggerating when I say that I am the whitest person taking Networks. People were staring at me like I didn’t belong in the room! They’ll just have to get used to me, I guess. At least I’m not blonde; then the stares would be even worse.

I found something else familiar at the grocery store the other day and decided to buy it. Let me know if you guys recognize this…