My Favorite Grocery Store

Trader Joe’s, hands down. At least for awesome vegetarian options. They don’t always have everything I want for baking, but they never let me down for dinner.

A little while ago I picked up a package of TJ’s Soy Chorizo to try. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with it, and then I found this amazing website, Cooking with Trader Joe’s. I’ve seen Trader Joe’s cookbooks before, but as a vegetarian I found most of the recipes useless to me. But a website, where you can search for recipes with specific TJ’s products? This is the greatest thing on the internet, my friends. Besides this gif I made of myself morphing into Beyonce for my computational photography class.

This recipe is super easy. Like, 10 min prep time, 15 min cook time, eat leftovers for days easy. And it calls for no spices. What?! WHAT?! I know. Because the soyrizo is just that delicious enough on its own.

Soyrizo Chili
Vegan. Serves 3-4. Adapted from Cook TJ.

Ingredients
half package Trader Joe’s soy chorizo
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can corn, drained
14oz canned diced tomatoes
1/4 red onion, diced
~1/3 C carrots, diced
olive oil

Instructions
1.
In a medium saucepan, saute onions and carrots in olive oil until softened.
2. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 min.
4. Serve hot, topped with cheese, cilantro, avocado, sour cream, etc.

Look at how chunky that chili is! Just how I like it. I wish I had thought ahead and bought Frito’s to make Frito Pie!

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Aloha

Double recipe post hooray!

It’s almost spring break and I am unbelievably excited. I get an entire week to lay on the beach and get spoiled rotten by my grandparents. Honolulu, here I come! These next two days of classes can’t get over with fast enough.

I did quite a bit of cooking this past Sunday, hence the double recipes. Weekend Breakfast came first, of course. Now, if you know me, you know that I love coffee. As for pancakes, well, any sane human being loves pancakes. So a marriage of the two is only appropriate.

Cappuccino Pancakes with Mocha Syrup

We followed the recipe exactly, so instead of being redundant I’ll just send you on over to The Pastry Affair.

The mocha syrup was amazing. A little too thick to really be syrup though; I ended up spreading it over the pancakes with a knife.

I’m getting pretty good at flipping pancakes/crepes/eggs/other foods you flip. I used to be terrible – I’d always ruin it! But look at this perfectly round pancake I made. So proud.

Of course, I still needed to eat dinner! I found a recipe for enchilada cupcakes, which I thought was an awesome idea. I love cupcakes and I love enchiladas – another wonderful marriage. The original recipe uses chicken, so since I’m a vegetarian I made up a new recipe.

Warning: since I made up the recipe, I sort of eyeballed everything, so now I’m guessing on the amounts. I actually only made 10 cupcakes because that’s how many tortillas I had, and used about 2/3 and 1/2 cans of beans and corn, respectively, so I’m trying to scale everything to use whole cans.

Enchilada Cupcakes
Original recipe can be found here. Makes ~15 cupcakes.

Ingredients
15 small corn tortillas
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained
1/4 C red or white onion, chopped
1/4 C green onion, chopped
1/2 C your favorite salsa
shredded cheese

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Cut out a circle the size of the cupcake pans from each tortilla, then cut the remaining ring into wedges (I found 6 wedges worked best). Arrange each tortilla into a ‘crust’ into a well of the pan. (If this doesn’t make sense, check out the original post for a nice picture.)
3. In a large bowl, mix together the beans, corn, onions, and salsa.
4. Scoop filling into each cupcake and top with cheese.
5. Bake for 20-30 min.

A word of advice: wait for them to cool a little bit before you eat them. I was so eager/hungry that I immediately took them out of the pans and onto my plate, where they fell apart. They tasted delicious, but weren’t as pretty. The ones I ate as leftovers yesterday and today held up much better.

What Month Is It?

I’ve been back in sunny Southern California for about two weeks now, loving this weather and absolutely dreading my return to Pittsburgh and the snow. It’s “cooled off” a bit here, down to about 75 everyday, but it was high 80s last week. Feels like summer. I hate snow.

I’ve got a couple recipes for you. It’s been so hot that I’ve been making smoothies almost everyday for lunch. This one has hidden veggies in it, but unlike my Tropical Green Monster it doesn’t have a scary color.

Berry Green Smoothie

Ingredients
1 C frozen mixed berries (I used strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
1/4 – 1/3 C milk, as needed (I used soy but any milk would be fine)
1 Tbsp chia seed
1 Tbsp flax meal
soy protein powder
1 large handful fresh spinach leaves
agave nectar, to taste

Instructions
Blend until smooth and serve.

Then the other day, my mom and I tried out a new recipe for vegetarian chili. It was really delicious but it took a lot of work. It wasn’t difficult but just cutting the vegetables took forever because there was so much. I must say, though, this is a pretty substantial chili. Some of my meat-eating friends seem to think there’s no such thing as vegetarian chili – I think they should try a bowl of this. It’s got some really interesting ingredients – coffee and chocolate – that give it a really unique flavor.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili
Original recipe from Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2012

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large bell peppers (1 red, 1 green), chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp adobo seasoning
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
1/2 C brewed coffee
1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes, crushed
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 15 oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 head cauliflower, grated
1/2 C fresh cilantro, chopped
cheese, onions, corn, etc. for topping

Instructions
1.
 In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, carrots, and salt, stirring frequently for 8 minutes or until carrots are soft.
2. Add garlic and cook 2 more minutes.
3. Stir in chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, chipotle, adobo, tomato paste, and tortillas. Cook about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a splash of water if the mixture begins to stick.
4. Add coffee and let simmer 30 seconds until almost completely reduced.
5. Reduce to low heat. Add tomatoes, cocoa powder, beans, and 2 1/2 C water, and let simmer for 1 hour 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Stir in cauliflower and let cook an additional 10 minutes.
7. Dig in!

How do you eat chili? Just in a bowl? My mom puts it over rice, or sometimes we put it on baked potatoes, but my first choice will always be the Frito Pie. How do you make a Frito Pie, you ask?

Just like that. Asian noodle bowl is optional.

Scorpions Taste Like Bacon

Today was the last day of my Chinese class. For whatever reason, it ends three weeks before all the rest of my classes, so now I have five day weekends. For the oral portion of my final, I had to choose a topic and talk for two minutes – I decided to talk about my trip to Beijing! Here’s my script, in case you’re curious:

上个星期我去了北京旅行。我的朋友都不会说汉语,所以我跟北京人说了很多普通话。我们在北京玩儿得非常好!我们参观了前门,天安门,故宫,天坛,还有 颐和园 。颐和园的风景最漂亮。那儿有一个很大的湖,可以坐船。我们在金山岭长城走了四个多小时。走完以后,我们太累了!我们也去了王府井小吃街。那个地方有很多好吃的菜。我吃了冰糖葫芦,羊肉串儿,煎饼果子,还有麻团儿。这些东西都很好吃!还有,我吃蝎子了,吃得坏!我很害怕!

Of course, now I have to tell you that same story but in English, but I really don’t know where to begin. I had an amazing five days in Beijing. I was with a couple Americans and a ton of Danes, and I was the only one who knows (well, sort of knows) Chinese, so naturally I got quite a bit of practice in! Sure, I was speaking in broken sentences the whole time, but it was great to talk to real people outside of a classroom.

Our hostel was right by 前门 Qianmen, so the first day we mostly walked around there. Qianmen means “front gate,” meaning that was the southernmost gate on the wall that used to surround Beijing. A ton of places in the city end in 门 “men” because they used to be gates!

In addition to the actual gate, Qianmen has shopping (regular and market-style) and tons of food.

My first meal in Beijing! The best thing about being in restaurants was speaking Chinese to the waiter/waitress. I can’t tell you how many times I asked 您有没有英文菜单?Do you have an English menu? First thing I noticed right of the bat was that restaurants serve a lot more vegetables than the ones in Hong Kong. The one on the right was my food – chicken with peanuts, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, and onions. I miss veggies! The little cakes in the center are fried pumpkin with a bit of red bean inside.

Beijing street food is generally amazing, but especially in Qianmen. Everywhere you turn there’s a little counter selling all sorts of cakes, buns, fried tofu, hot dogs, and corn on the cob. One of my favorite things was 冰糖葫芦 bingtanghulu, skewers of candied haw berries. They have just haws, haws covered in sesame seeds, or haws cut in half with orange slices in the middle, and even skewers of candied strawberries, grapes, pineapple, or kiwi. I like the plain haws the best, but you have to look for ones with cuts down the middle – that means they’ve taken out the seeds, which can be pretty painful if you bite down on one accidentally. It’s a bit more expensive when you get it that way, but even then it’s only about 8元 max. The ones with seeds are a cheap as 1元.

On the second day, we got up bright and early, left the hostel around 6am for 金山岭长城, the Great Wall at Jinshanling. It’s a couple hours northeast of the city, but I’d say it’s definitely worthwhile to make the trek all the way out there rather than going to the 八达岭 Badaling section which is much closer. There’s nothing I hate more than pictures with people in them, and once you’re all the way out there it’s pretty easy to get some gorgeous shots of the wall without any tourists, whereas Badaling is super crowded. That also means it isn’t as well restored in some places, but that can be good, too. We walked for around four hours; I didn’t realize it would be so steep in some places!

It was the perfect day for the Wall. Pretty cold in the morning, but once we got walking we warmed up quite a bit, and it was the least hazy of all the days we were there. You really could see on forever, mountains behind mountains behind mountains.

After a long day, we finally made it back to the city and went to 鬼街 Guijie, Ghost Street, for dinner, near 东直门 Dongzhimen. It’s a couple blocks of all restaurants, and at night people will set up little tables where they try to sell you overpriced souvenir crap.

We were in need of some delicious 烤鸭 roast duck, so we got some of that as well as something called 杂粮包 zaliangbao. I’m not sure if it has a real English name, but Google Translate tells me that means “cereal package.” So I’ll just stick with zaliangbao.

It’s little bowls of steamed bread, with veggies and meat that you put inside! I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this before. Such an interesting change from the usual noodles and rice.

Friday we headed first to 天安门 Tian’anmen Square and 故宫 The Forbidden City, both of which were walking distance from the hostel. I couldn’t believe how crowded these places were. There were tons of tour groups – 20 or so little old Chinese ladies all wearing the same bright orange baseball cap, following some guy with a big flag and a megaphone. In the Forbidden City, you can look inside the buildings but you can’t go into most of them, and wherever there was an open spot to look people were pushing and shoving! After awhile, I just decided it wasn’t even worth it to fight my way through. The buildings themselves are already gorgeous, not to mention the gardens, so who really cares whether or not you get to see the Emperor’s favorite concubine’s dressing room?

After that, we made our way over to 西单 Xidan for some 火锅 hotpot! I had a recommendation for a place called 海底捞 Haidilao, and it was soooo delicious, and very inexpensive. They have a few locations, and apparently they’re pretty popular – you should have seen the size of the waiting area.

Then we went to 天坛 Temple of Heaven. We got there after the actual temple was closed, but it’s a huge park, so it was still nice to walk around. There were so many trees! That’s one thing Hong Kong could definitely use more of. We also did a bit of market shopping.

Finally, the thing I had been waiting for: 王府井小吃街 Wangfujing Snack Street, a little alley off of 王府井大街 Wangfujing Street that sells tons of crazy street food. There was some normal food, of course, but I was most interested in the crazy When-In-China type food. They really do eat anything and everything in China, and in Wangfujing you can get it all, usually on a stick.

From top to bottom, left to right, that’s pidgeon; sea urchin; squid tentacles; scorpions, starfish, and seahorses; lizards and more seahorses; quail eggs; 羊肉串儿 yangrou chaur (lamb kebabs); mini lobsters (who knew they came that small?). I kept pretty tame with my choices: a corn on the cob, lamb, squid, and some chicken dumplings. I did, however, do something a little crazy. I ate 蝎子 xiezi. Scorpion. A big, huge, deep-fried black one.

Gonna be honest, I screamed a little, but who wouldn’t? It really did taste like bacon though. Disgusting bacon, but bacon nonetheless. No amount of peer pressure could get me anywhere near the grasshoppers or centipedes though. Nuh uh, no way. The scorpion was immediately washed down with some delicious haw berries.

On Saturday we headed northwest of the city toward 圆明园 Yuanmingyuan (the Old Summer Palace) and 颐和园 the Summer Palace. Yuanmingyuan was the Summer Palace for the Qing dynasty emperors until it was burned down during the Second Opium War in 1860. That’s where the newer Summer Palace comes in.

Three-quarters of the park is a huge manmade lake. Really, you see this thing and you’re just blown away. Definitely the best scenery of the trip (which I said in my Chinese final! 颐和园的风景最漂亮!)

Then we made our way back to the city, stopped by the 雍和宫 Yonghegong Lama Temple, and then 798 艺术区 Art District, basically the hipster-central of Beijing. Tons of interesting art galleries, cute little boutiques, and small coffee shops. We also went to the Olympic Park, where the games were in 2008; the stadiums were beautifully lit at night. Finally, we ended the night with cocktails at 什刹海酒吧 Shichahai Bar Street in 后海 Houhai. We found a place called the Lotus Blue that had a live reggae band! In the middle of Beijing, of all places.

Finally, it was our last day in Beijing. I really wanted to make it to the Ming Tombs, but that’s a bit outside the city and I was afraid we wouldn’t make it back in time for our flight. Instead we stopped by 孔庙 Temple of Confucius and did a bit of last minute shopping at the clothing market in 三里屯 Sanlitun. And got some more street food, of course.

The one on the top left is called 麻团儿 matuar in Beijing and other parts of northern China, but I usually call it 煎堆 jiandui. It’s fried glutinous rice flour covered in sesame seeds, usually with lotus paste inside. My favorite is when it has red bean, so I was a little disappointed to bite into the lotus paste, but I kept eating and found that there was red bean INSIDE the lotus paste! The top right is a crunchy, eggy pastry. Bottom left is a chewy cake-type thing with red beans, and the bottom right is a flakey, buttery bun. Outside of Qianmen, most street food comes from the back of someone’s bicycle. They attach a box of food to the back and just hang around somewhere. People sell fruit, roasted chestnuts, and my personal favorite, baked sweet potatoes.

Outside the Confucian temple, we got stopped by these adorable guys from Beijing University. They were all holding cameras, so at first I thought they wanted pictures of us (that happens when you walk around with blonde people in China), but instead they asked if they could each have a conversation with us and film it. It was homework for an English class. It was seriously the cutest thing that’s ever happened to me! They were all obviously very nervous, and kept checking their scripts whenever they forgot what they were supposed to say.

My last meal in Beijing. It was good, nothing special, but what I really liked was the English translation on the menu: eggplant face. The word for noodle, 面 mian, has several meanings, one of which is face. I laughed so hard when I saw that!

My five days in Beijing were definitely some of the most memorable yet. Honestly, I wish I could have stayed longer! Being able to practice my Chinese with real people was so great, too. I’m really sad I won’t have time to make it to Shanghai during my stay here in Asia, but I guess that just gives me a great excuse to come back.

My Bucket List

School has forced me, and everyone else, into a routine. We’re not as adventurous as we used to be, and time is running out. I have less than two months left in Hong Kong, and multiple weekends will be spent out of town (read: I will be in Beijing in approximately 36 hours). Realizing this, a couple of friends and I have written a Hong Kong bucket list – things we absolutely have to do before we leave. It’s actually a pretty long list, but I think I can finish it. I just can’t have so many lazy days.

Last Wednesday (have I mentioned how much I love having no class on Wednesdays?) I went to Big Wave Bay, another beach on the island. It’s mostly for surfing, but since I’m not exactly pro after my one lesson in Santa Cruz and the waves were a lot bigger than they were that day (hence the name Big Wave), I decided instead to just lay out on the sand, read my book, and watch my friends surf. Fine by me, it was so relaxing. I still can’t believe I went to the beach in November… it’s even too cold at home for that.

That evening, a friend and I found a great pasta place for dinner, cheap and pretty close to the dorms. I eat noodles almost everyday, but I still find myself wishing I had pasta sometimes! I had spaghetti with pesto, chicken and mushrooms… Mmmm. We stopped at a little fruit stand along the way because my friend spotted rose apples, or jambos, which she used to eat all the time in Malaysia. I’d never seen anything like it before, so I got one at had it for breakfast the next day. It was like a really crisp, crunchy apple.

Friday I knocked out two items on the bucket list. My two co-authors and I went to Kowloon Park, over in Tsim Sha Tsui. It’s actually a pretty big park, with an aviary! We didn’t go in, though, so I’ll have to go back another day. It was really nice, but strange to be around so much green and see the skyscrapers in the background.

Eventually we found our way to a footbridge, and on the other side was the most beautiful sunset. We were looking straight out into the water, and you can see the whole island skyline. Seriously, the pictures can’t do it justice.

After that, we rushed over to the Ko Shan Theater in Hung Hom for a Cantonese opera! It was pretty good, and the costumes were amazing. It would have been even better, though, if it hadn’t been three and a half hours long. The story wasn’t even that complicated, they just took forever to say anything! It reminded me of when I read The Good Earth in ninth grade. It takes five minutes for the girl to say something as simple as “I’m cold,” and another five for the guy to say “me too.” Without all the fluff, that show would have been an hour and a half, tops. The whole thing was in Cantonese, but they had subtitles on screens on the sides of the stage. That was fine, except the screens randomly shut off for a couple minutes a few times… It’s funny how quickly you can get lost. Also, the three of us where both the whitest and youngest people in the whole theater. I’m pretty sure people were staring.

The show was called 一捧雪, A Handful of Snow. Basically some guys were fighting over a jade goblet called “A Handful of Snow,” while using the goblet to get at this girl whose name was 雪艷, Xueyan. The first character in her name means snow, so I felt pretty cool and knowledgable explaining the double meaning to my friends. Spoiler alert: Xueyan ends up killing the bad guy while yelling “STAB, STAB, STAB!” It was pretty funny.

On Saturday I had a lazy day. I didn’t feel like doing homework, and I really wanted to go outside, so I decided to take a walk to the water. It was such a nice day, and the view of the skyline was absolutely clear. There’s a bit of grass, some benches, and a little boardwalk all along the water, so I took my book and read for a couple of hours. I wish I had a place like this back at school where I could do homework… not that we have the weather for it, anyway.

On Sunday, I finally got to try congee. I can’t believe I’ve been in Hong Kong for over two months and I haven’t had it yet! Wikipedia says it’s the same thing as jook, which my mom makes, but this seemed different. Maybe it’s just been too long since I ate meat for me to remember. Mom, I know you are reading this – is congee the same thing as the jook you make? Anyway, congee is rice porridge, and you eat it with this delicious fried dough stuff.

I got PUMPKIN congee with corn and pork. Yes. Pumpkin. Pretty much the first pumpkin food I’ve had all fall! It wasn’t exactly pumpkin pie, but it was good. Ugh, I could really go for some pumpkin pie now. I’m really sad I’m going to miss Thanksgiving. Best food of the year besides Christmas, and I’m missing that too. Someone, please make stuffing and sweet potatoes for me when I get home. I will love you forever.

Buddhaful

School is finally into a regular schedule, and it’s official: my Tuesdays are awful. Sure, I only have one class on Monday and Thursday, and I get Wednesday and Friday off, but I definitely pay for it with Tuesday. I have class from 12:30-10 with only an hour for dinner. Yeah, that’s right, 10pm. Last Tuesday, classes were cancelled, and the Tuesday before that was the first week and only two of my classes met, so yesterday was my first real hell day. I was absolutely exhausted by the end! And I thought I had packed enough food with an apple and some crackers, but my stomach was growling the whole time.

Last post, I talked about the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, which literally has over ten thousand Buddha statues. As a follow up to that, last Friday I went to the Big Buddha. It’s literally a gigantic Buddha. They’re not very creative with names here, I think. Either way, it was awesome.

It’s way up on the mountain in Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. The subway doesn’t go that far, so after that you can either take a bus or go with the more exciting/expensive option: cable cars.

(I say expensive, but really it’s only about $150HKD roundtrip, or 20 bucks for the fans back home.)

If the cable cars weren’t cool enough, you can pay a little extra to ride in a crystal cabin. What does a crystal cabin entail, you ask? Glass. Floor.

Those are my stylin’ Birkenstocks, if you were wondering.

Anyway, once you get there, there’s plenty to do. The cable car lets off in Ngong Ping Village, a ridiculously touristy area of shops where all the buildings are made with stereotypical Chinese architecture – think Disneyland’s Main Street but Asian. They did have a shop filled entirely with vending machines, which was awesome! Not like food vending machines, but the kind where you put in a coin and hope/pray the little plastic ball that comes out doesn’t have something lame inside. I got a couple of ridiculously adorable cell phone charms.

Besides that, there’s plenty to just look at. There’s the Po Lin Monastery, where lots of people were praying, burning incense, that sort of thing. Plus there were tons of flowers, which I love, and I was able to snap a couple National-Geographic-esque shots:

At the monastery they have an all vegetarian restaurant. Yes, that’s right. All vegetarian. I can’t even explain how happy that made me. I had asked a friend – a local – why it’s impossible to get tofu at a restaurant here. He said, “Are you kidding? Tofu is cheap! No one goes out to eat and orders tofu!” Well, the monastery is my new favorite restaurant. It’s a set menu based on how many people are at your table, but everything was delicious. I haven’t seen so many vegetables on one table since I got here! There was an all-veggie soup, a cauliflower dish with fried tofu, bell peppers and cucumber with something very similar to Tofurkey, curry with corn and soft tofu, veggie spring rolls, mushrooms with bok choy… I was in tofu heaven.

After that, finally, what I had been waiting for: Big Buddha. You have to climb about a million stairs to get up to it, which is actually really awesome because it looks bigger and bigger the closer you get. I’m not kidding, this thing is huge – over a hundred feet tall. And since it’s way up on the top of the mountain, you can see it for miles! Pretty crazy.

At the very top, there are six smaller (but still pretty big) statues circling it, giving offerings of flowers, fruit, and other things Wikipedia tells me are necessary to enter nirvana.

Then on Saturday I made a complete turnaround from Buddhist temples and went shopping. Considering my bargaining skills are unbelievably poor, I think I did pretty well for myself – shorts, a shirt, a belt, sunglasses, a wallet, and a reusable grocery bag for under $50USD. Mong Kok is the best.

After that we went to Pui O beach (again on Lantau) for a concert-type thing at a bar right on the shore. I felt like, just for that evening, I left Hong Kong and was back in California. The band playing when I got there was really great – calm, beachy music, very appropriate for the occasion. The sand on the beach was the softest I’ve ever felt on my life, and it was so relaxing to stand with my feet in the water and listen to the music in the background. The band that came on after that was pretty terrible, but at least I still had the waves! I definitely want to go back to that beach in the daytime.

Last Hurrahs

Finally, I have my first class today. Artificial Intelligence from 6:30pm-10:00pm. I can’t believe how late classes go here! It’s ridiculous. My evening classes are already making me miss out on things, like the exchange student dinner tomorrow. Bah. If it weren’t the first week, I would ditch.

The past few days I’ve been having a lot of foods reminding me of home. I’ve gone out of my way to eat simple things like sandwiches. It’s not that I’m really tired of Chinese food or anything, I just need some variety! Every meal seems to be a choice between rice or noodles. There is plenty more Chinese food I need to experience! I haven’t really had dumpling soup or dim sum or anything like that, and I’m getting tired of constant noodles.

The other day we went to a burger place called BLT. To be honest, it wasn’t that great. I had a falafel burger (vegetarian yes!!) that was only so-so, and the fries tasted kind of McDonald’s-y. What was amazing though was the milkshakes. Let me just start by saying that being of age is amazing. I’m only 20, so I can’t drink at home. Not that I’m dying to go get drunk every night, but sometimes you look on a menu and the drinks just sound amazing! Because of that, I’m definitely taking advantage of my age while I’m here. I ordered a milkshake, called Silk Road, made of Kahlua, Bailey’s, espresso, and coffee ice cream. That thing must have been over 1500 calories, and I enjoyed every last drop of it. It’s something I can definitely make on my own, too. Yum.

Another taste of home I had this week: frozen yogurt. Froyo is such a big deal here! It’s actually very inexpensive too, considering most dairy products are pretty costly. There’s a Tutti Frutti pretty close to my dorm. I’ve seen it at home but never had it (I’m much more into Yogurtland or Menchie’s) so I’m not sure how the flavors compare, but it definitely had some unique options. I got half guava and half red bean yogurt – the guava was to die for but the red bean was only so-so. Then, as I usually do, I only topped it with fruit and mochi, plus the little jelly things you can get at bubble tea places. They had dragon fruit! If you haven’t had it before, it’s that hot pink scary looking thing but it’s white inside with black seeds. It tastes a little bit like kiwi, but less sweet.

The other day, my roommate went over to Macau for the day. Macau and Hong Kong are the two Special Administrative Regions of China, meaning they belong to China but are separate for the time being. The ferry to Macau only takes about one hour, so I definitely have to go! Anyway, she brought me back some “cookies”…

They look like normal cookies, right? Crunchy outside with maybe a chocolatey filling or something. When I looked at the box more closely, I realized they weren’t cookies at all. It says “Phoenix Egg Roll with Seaweed and Shredded Pork.” Not a cookie. I ate one though – very interesting. I know it says pork but they taste extremely fishy. Nice to try, but I don’t know how I’m going to finish the whole box.

Yesterday I went to Repulse Bay, a beach on Hong Kong Island. It was so nice! Everyone says that beach is so dirty, but honestly, compared to LA beaches it was ridiculously clean. Very little trash. Afterward we went to this fantastic Japanese restaurant in the Tsim Sha Tsui subway station. It’s crazy, almost every subway station here is its own little shopping center, with tons of places to eat and small boutiques. The TST one is a full mall with multiple floors, clothing stores, and sit down restaurants. This was a trendy place called Miso Cool. Not too expensive and absolutely delicious! I will definitely be going back.

I’ve been trying to eat more meat for a more balanced diet, so I decided to go with spicy ramen with shrimp tempura. It was delicious! I haven’t had anything spicy since I got here, so the ramen really hit the spot. It came with corn, a bit of bok choy, and half an egg on top. The tempura had two shrimps plus one piece of eggplant and one piece of squash. It was really great, not too greasy or anything. And the presentation was so cute! All of us were gawking when our food came out. There’s a little picture on the inside of the bowls, and they’re all different. They also have some interesting smoothies, like green tea with Yakult, that I’ll have to try when I go back.

Oh, and one strange thing I’ve noticed here: The Chinese drink 紅茶 or 綠茶, which translates to red tea and green tea. The only problem is that when they say red tea, what they are actually talking about is what we call black tea. Since this bizarre translation was already explained to me by my Chinese teacher this year, I wasn’t surprised by it, but I know a few people were a bit confused. When my friend and I both ordered red milk tea the other day, I knew exactly what I was getting but she thought she was trying something new!