1st Day @ 10th Thailand Congress of Nutrition – Sufficiency Economy Philosophy by his majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, promoting ‘Green Economy’, and fighting against NCD’s

Preface: this will be my first blog post in about a year! I hope you will stay in tuned for more as I plan to update much more regularly in these months! 

Two weeks ago, I had participated in the ‘10th Thailand Congress of Nutrition‘ organized by the Nutrition Association of Thailand (สมาคมโภชนาการแห่งประเทศไทย). I was lucky enough to be given this opportunity due to my association with the Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University (where I’m interning at), which is a member of the Nutrition Association. Here’s the official webpage of the conference: http://www.tcn-conference.com/2016/home.php unfortunately, it is only in Thai. And no surprise, about 99.9% of participants at the conference were Thai.

I learned a lot at the conference — mostly on the climate of nutrition, food, and agriculture in Thailand. The topic of the conference was “Proactive Nutrition for Sustainability” (โภชนาการเชิงรุกเพื่อการพัฒนาที่ยั่งยืน). So I thought I would write a summary of my understanding of the conference, conveniently translated for English readers!

Here are some of my takeaways from the first day of the conference:


The title of the Keynote Address was “The Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy: An approach to Managing Food Businesses towards Public Nutrition.”

The speaker Assoc. Prof. Sooksan Kantabutra from the College of Management Mahidol University talked about the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, how it has been established in the Thai agriculture industry, and how it can today be employed in Thai food businesses (in order “to enchance national nutrition and, as a consequence, their own corporate sustainability prospect”*).

For more details on the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy or “Sufficiency Thinking Model,” I recommend the book Sufficiency Thinking – Thailand’s gift to an unsustainable world. The book describes the model as a more humane-centered approach on capitalism to avoid greed and short-term thinking. The model, เศรษฐกิจพอเพียง, was pioneered by the recently passed his majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

*Words from extract of the Keynote Address

I was most interested in the examples of successful uses of the model by a few Thai food companies, as given by Mr. Kantabutra. For example, Xongdur ซองเดอร์, was the first Thai company to manufacture and sell organic cereal bars in the country. Their business model follows the Sufficiency Economy philosophy developed by his majesty King  Bhumibol Adulyadej. Xongdur supports their farmers/providers’ self-sufficiency, and are committed to delivering organic, safe, and healthful products to Thai people. Their production has been recognized by 13 Thai and international organizations!

I wouldn’t say Xongdur is a mainstream brand in the entire Thai food market — but they are certainly one of the most recognized health cereal product on the shelves (since they were one of the first in the trend). Personally, I’ve had their Black Sesame & 8 cereal bar, 15 Fruit & cereal bar, Sesame cereal drink, and Vanilla cereal drink — all of which were great tasting, not too high in calories nor too sweet. I also enjoy how Xongdur has a range of ‘no sugar’, ‘low sugar’, and ‘sugar’ for most of their products, to cater to different needs ^_^

Most of all, Xongdur is known for fair treatment for their workers, all of which also translates to great products for the customers.


Thai President Foods distributor of the famous MAMA มาม่า instant noodles was lauded for being the first Thai major food company to fortify their product. Thai President Foods was founded in 1972 and to this day, has been providing Thai people with affordable staple noodles for more than 40 years. The price of a packet of MAMA has been consistently ~5 Baht or 0.14 USD (as of today) since its manufacture.

Thailand has always had a public health problem with micronutrients deficiency in its population, such as iodine, iron, and vitamin A, especially in the countryside or remote areas. In 1997, Thai President Foods began to sell its products fortified with the mentioned vitamins and minerals, in the efforts to improve people’s health.

I know that you may be thinking — healthy and instant noodles shouldn’t even belong in the same sentence -_- It could be pure marketing, but the company has done good in transforming an already popular product into a more nutritionally adequate one, without barely increasing the price.

Here’s a look at their “mission statement“, arranged into a handy acronym, for those who are interested.


Nithi Foods is a “leading spices and seasoning products manufacturer based in Chiangmai, Thailand.” They are known for their high quality products and usage of his majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s sustainability model. Here is an extract from their webpage:

“When ask – What are Nithi Foods’ management principles? We proudly say it is the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy of His Majesty the King Bhumibol of Thailand. We adopt the principles of Reasonableness – Moderation – and Immunity on the foundation of morality and knowledge when making decisions and in business practices.”*

*From Nithi Foods website

Phung Noi Bakery ผึ้งน้อยเบเกอรี่ is also another Chiangmai-based food company. Phung Noi Bakery practices the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy by adhering to ‘local branding’ and ‘direct marketing.’ Phung Noi Bakery manufactures, and sell 90% of their own products while the rest 10% are products not produced by their bakery.

Ampol Food is another food company based in northern Thailand. Ampol Food is dedicated to developing healthy food products for the Thai public. They are currently in the process of creating a nutrition research center to be titled APF Nutrition Research Center. Ampol Food also owns the line of health-conscious condiments ‘Good Life’, which is dedicated to not only providing healthier options for consumers, but also provide nutrition knowledge. Their webpage contains a preface from “Professor Good Life” aka Professor Visith Chavasit of Institute of Nutrition Mahidol University who develop their products. In addition, the website also contain articles of health, exercise, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle tips. Some of their products include 40% sodium reduced fish sauce, 50% sodium reduced and no sugar added sweet chili sauce, and ‘coconut milk’ made from wheat (rice bran and sunflower oil) — said to contain a 1:1:1 ratio of SFA:MUFA:PUFA recommended by the American Heart Association.


Now, the first symposium at the conference was on the health situation and risks of chronic diseases in Thai population ‘สถานการณ์สุขภาพและปัจจัยเสี่ยงโรคเรื้อรังในประเทศไทย’ given by ศ. นพ.วิชัย เอกพลากร of Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University

In 2014, a quinquennial (occurring every five years) MICS (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey) was conducted nationwide by the National Statistic Office (their website is worth a visit, it’s got plenty of interesting statistics). The results were compared with those from 2009. Unfortunately, the survey showed that risks of chronic diseases in Thai population has increased, in particular, overweight conditions, diabetes, and hypertension. All of which were contributed by lifestyle, in particular, Thai people’s current food choices, proportions, which has adverse health effects, and decreased amount of physical activity. One of the few good news from the study was the fact that total cholesterol >=240 mg/dL in the population has decreased from 19.4% in 2009 to 16.4% in 2014.

Unfortunately, these trends of NCD (Non-communicable disease) are not only unique to Thailand. The speaker brought up the study, Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19·2 million participants, published in the Lancet. The study found that:

“Over the past four decades, we have transitioned from a world in which underweight prevalence was more than double that of obesity, to one in which more people are obese than underweight, both globally and in all regions except parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.”

However, it was interesting to note that:

“The rate of increase in BMI since 2000 has been slower than in the preceding decades in high-income countries, where adiposity became an explicit public health concern around this time, (27,28) and in some middle-income countries. However, because the rate of BMI increase has accelerated in some other regions, the global increase in BMI has not slowed down. If post-2000 trends continue, not only will the world not meet the global target for halting the increase in obesity, but also severe obesity will surpass underweight in women by 2025. Nonetheless, underweight remains a public health problem in south Asia and central and east Africa.”*

*Extracts from the aforementioned paper

Thailand is certainly amongst the ‘other regions’ they spoke of.

The speaker then tied these findings to a recent publication on diabetes prevalence trends in ‘ASEAN plus 5.’ Unfortunately, I was unable to find the cited paper – _ –  (if anyone knows, please leave a link below!). From my memory, one of the ‘plus 5’ was Japan. This was because the speaker highlighted the fact that despite increasing diabetes rates in all ASEAN plus 5, Japanese females had a declining trend! Other than Japan, Singapore (both male and female), Vietnam (males) were amazingly maintaining a non rising nor declining rate. And from my memory, Thailand is only second to Malaysia in ASEAN, in the prevalence of diabetes.

As a note, this study was conducted by measurement of the impaired fasting glucose (so I believe pre-diabetic individuals were also included).


Other than adult obesity, Thailand is also one of the leading in childhood obesity rate. During our lunch symposium (I posted pictures of their packaged meals on my instagram), we were introduced to a Nestle sponsored program ‘United for Healthier Kids TH‘ which aim to combat this burgeoning double burden.

For more info: Thai Facebook page here. Main international website here.

I know you may be thinking — hmm.. a multi-billion dollar food company sponsored program? But I actually quite enjoyed their Thai campaign. There’s almost zero brand promotion, plenty of nutrition knowledge resources for parents, healthy cooking videos on their Facebook page, and the company has partnered with Thailand’s Office of The Basic Education Commission and Ministry of Education, amongst other government institutions.

Their unique new campaign is the “Hero Meal” campaign — turning vegetables, eggs, and water into cute cartoon characters that attract kids and encourage them to consume more healthy whole foods. I guess the idea is similar to the “Popeye spinach effect“.


The next symposium was on Green Economy for security of the food system given by Assoc. Prof. Visith Chavasit, Ph.D of Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University. This is kind of a heavy topic for Thai people.

In his extract, Dr. Chavasit named the appropriateness of the relationship between agriculture, manufacture of nutritious produce, and health of the population, as important factors in creating food stability in the country. Thailand is an agricultural country rich in arable land and well suited climate, as a result, it has been challenged by large industries and overseas market to produce numerous agricultural products for both domestic and international markets.

Thailand is the word’s largest exporter of rubber, shrimp, cassava products, and the world’s second producer of rice. Due to these outstanding circumstances, it has created changes in the previously abundant lands, that were sources of natural reservoir and food, into canvas for monoculture. Food and natural resources has been wholly utilized to respond to various markets. Past and current developments have all been in the receiving end, which is devoid of practicality and sustainability. This has continuously affected environments related to the food system. For example, deforestation which in turn damages water sources and biodiversity, and an inefficient water management system, the push for economic growth without consideration to social consequences.

A social cofactor of Thailand’s current food system includes a rapidly aging society, urbanization, widening wealth gap, and the population’s potential to respond to changes in social economy and technology, etc. All of these affect the population’s health and sustainability of the food system. Current consequences of these include over-nutrition, rapid spread of NCD’s (non-communicable diseases), aging farmers (The speaker mentioned almost all farmers he spoke to are over 60 — this case also applies elsewhere such as in the US), drought, floods, and the precipitation of the production of food exports to the point where the domestic market is affected, consumers’ lack of awareness, etc.

The speaker asks — at this moment, is international competition in exports and tourism the true indicators, and what is the sweet spot? Thailand is a lit match, burning itself to respond to others’ needs and pride in world economic rankings, only for monetary rewards? In the end we would only end up as a small mound of ash.

Dr. Chavasit concluded his symposium by presenting the ‘Green Economy’, with the key terms ‘Innovative Inclusive Restorative’, or the redistribution of land and resources for lasting sustainability and sufficiency (as endorsed by the late his majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej) in the food system, as a way out of this problem.

To help illustrate his point, Dr. Chavasit cited the World Fresh Water supply map (if anyone can find this please provide link below!), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) document which contained graphics showing food loss and waste by region and stage in the world. He mentioned that countries like Japan and Singapore with self-agriculture rates of only 30% and 10% (respectively), are still able to maintain a relatively sustainable and stable economy.

To brighten things up a bit, Dr. Chavasit presented us with some successful ‘Green Economy’ projects such as สัญญาหน้าฝน (roughly translated as: Rainy Season Promise) where during every rainy season, orchard farmers who live in flood-prone areas send their rare specimens to another group of orchard farmers living in safe areas. The orchard farmers on the receiving end are granted pieces of the specimens, on the promise that they must take good care of the plants and of course, return them after the end of the season (the name of the project is also the title of a popular rock song in the early 2000s).  Another example is ไร่หมุนเวียน or shifting cultivation, which is popularly practiced by northern ethnic minorities who farm in the rich forests. It is the “recycling” of agriculture area, where cultivated lands which are no longer fertile are abandoned, allowed to grow into forests, before being once again turned into a farming land.

That is about all I recovered from the first day of the conference. Please stay in tuned for contents from the second day of the conference! They include Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCD’s by Dr. Renu Garg, WHO representative, and the application of WHO’s “Best Practice” model in Thailand. Now, I’ll end with an official music video of the song สัญญาหน้าฝน or Rainy Season Promise by Carabao /(>w<)/

Mugendai Penthouse @Emquartier, BKK

*As of this post, I will slightly adjust my post style. The content will include less scientific data & word count. This is to suit my busy schedule as I return to college & make frequent updates possible! Nevertheless, the content will still be interesting & more detailed posts will be updated less regularly. 

Mugendai is one of Thailand’s best Japanese restaurant. The materials are fresh & the finest. Hence, the price can also be quite high.

Why is this restaurant called ‘penthouse’? This is because it is located at the top floor of the Helix Quartier at the Emquartier mall complex (their website here). The view & atmosphere is pretty nice.


Now, we all know Japanese food tend to be very healthy. Will food at Mugendai live up to this name? Mugendai is known for their raw fish, which are very nutritious and low in fat.

Salmon Yukke Don


(chopped Salmon, Quail egg, Chili paste *according to the menu description. More precisely, short-grained white rice topped with raw salmon, tamagoyaki, cucumber pieces, pine nuts, shiso leaf & garnished w/ lemon, wasabi & pickled ginger. And let’s not forget the poached egg on top)


Salmon – we all know that salmon is an incredibly healthy oily fish, being rich in omega 3 fatty acids & vitamin D. The former is essential for body functions w/ benefits i.e. reducing blood triglyceride levels, improving heart health, risks of dementia, etc. The latter is essential in maintaining calcium & good metabolism.

Egg – is a ‘complete protein’, containing all essential amino acids. It is rich in protein, vitamins & minerals, i.e. fat soluble vitamins like A & D. Eggs are also high in cholesterol, hence, older people should consume it moderately. However, only >half of the fat in egg yolks is saturated. Eggs are easy to be digested, high in protein, nutrients & energy making it a perfect food for growing children.


Donburi is a popular Japanese meal. It consists of rice w/ topping. Sashimi donburi are more expensive & not eaten as often as other kinds.


There is a special way to eat donburi w/ poached/raw egg: mix together contents of the bowl. Add shoyuu. It can also be eaten w/ pickled ginger or wasabi.

Deep-fried sakura ebi 



Sakura ebi (sakura shrimp) – is low in calories & very high in protein (providing 312 calories, 65 g protein per 100 g). It is essentially just mini shrimps & hence similar to other commonly consumed small shrimps in nutrition. Because of the small size, it is incredibly high in calcium (200% daily recommendation per 100 g), other minerals & vitamin B’s.

Although sakura ebi is a very healthy food, deep-fried sakura ebi are high in fat & low in protein/nutrients. It should be consumed in moderation.


Wagyu Foie Gras Fried Rice

(Chopped A5 Wagyu beef, Pan-fried French goose liver)



Foie gras – is made of fatty goose liver. The finest foie gras may contain up to 86.1% fat. One ounce serving can contain up to 12 grams fat & 42 milligrams cholesterol. Foie gras should definitely be consumed in moderation.

Wagyu – (view my post on wagyu nutrition here). For those wondering what A5 wagyu is, here is some info. But to put simply, it is the top grade wagyu.

Although this fried rice comes w/ vegetables, it is still very high in fat & should be consumed in moderation.

Pork Sukiyaki


(Top-grade sliced pork, vermicelli, tofu, carrots, mixed mushrooms, spinach, negi & cabbage in clear bone broth)


Sukiyaki or Japanese-style hot pot is an incredibly healthy dish. It is low in fat & contain plenty of vegetables & lean protein in nutrient-rich soup.


Sliced pork – Japanese style sliced pork may contain plenty of fat (3 g sat. fat per 28 g, comparing to 1 g in pork loin), but it is still high in protein & nutrients like vitamin B’s and selenium. Selenium is an essential trace mineral you need to maintain healthy immune system.

Tofu – is without a doubt one of the best source of vegetable protein, containing almost 0% fat, 7 g protein (per 100 g, 62 calories serving) & all essential amino acids.

Spinach & carrots – are both high in beta-carotene (377% & 427% per 1 cup serving respectively), an antioxidant thought to guard against heart disease and lung cancer. They are also high in fibre. Spinach is also rich in minerals like iron, magnesium, calciumBoth vegetables are more nutritious when cooked. Heating some vegetables releases antioxidants by breaking down cell walls. Studies have found that eating cooked spinach and carrots versus raw results in much higher blood levels of beta-carotene (source here).

Japanese mushrooms mix (shiitake, enoki, maitake, shimeji) – are all full of nutrients. Mushrooms are known for being high in fibre & low in calories, like vegetables. But recently, there has been more researches on the high amount of phytochemicals & antioxidants present in these fungi.  Shiitake is possibly the most well-known Japanese mushroom, famous for having anticancer properties (read more here).


Sukiyaki is often eaten w/ ponzu (citrus-based sauce) or goma (sesame seed) sauce. Both sauces are low in nutrients. Ponzu sauce is relatively high in sugar & goma sauce is high in sesame seeds butter.

Nevertheless, these two dips make the perfect pairing for the soup.

How to get to the Mugendai Penthouse in Bangkok:

 –  Izzy

“必品阁 Bibigo”Healthy Korean Cuisine @世贸天阶 The Place

*Update: I plan on not continuing the star-rating as it is not a very accurate way to measure nutritional value of a meal. 

世贸天阶 or The Place is a new shopping center in the Beijing’s CBD. Its construction finished in 2009 & it is most known for having Asia’s the biggest LED screen. The shopping center’s location is great, although it doesn’t have a wide variety of restaurants (most were foreign & expensive).

In any case, we came upon a Korean restaurant w/ a cutesy name, “Bibigo“, that was also promoted as a “health food” restaurant. The fact that it was sponsored by CJ definitely caught my eye (it had better be good!)

Bibigo were definitely better known for their healthy bibimbap varieties. Each come w/ all sorts of fresh veggies & you can choose from 4 types of rice (purple, brown, white & mixed grain?) & 4 types of sauces.

I decided to be boring & chose kimchi stew:



Kimchi Jiggae (stew)

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This kimchi stew is definitely no kidding. It tasted similar to jiggaes that I’ve had @Korean restaurants prepared by actual Koreans, or homemade ones. It was thick, full of flavor & had the right amount of spiciness.

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As mentioned in my previous post, kimchi is a rich source of vitamins & gut-friendly probiotics. It is incredibly healthy. However, many of its nutrients will be destroyed in high heat. Hence, the healthiest way to enjoy kimchi is fresh. This, however, doesn’t make kimchi jjigae any less healthy.

Kimchi “jjigae” or stew is usually made by boiling slices of kimchi w/ either beef, pork, or seafood, tofu, spring onions & garlic. Water or anchovy stock is used. The stew is then seasoned w/ either “deonjang” bean paste, “gochujang” red pepper paste or haszing duu (spicy water) (source here). It contains plenty of vitamin B-rich ingredients such as anchovy, bean paste & kimchi, & mineral-rich ingredients such as meat & seafood. It is also low in fat. Warm soup is more easily digested & puts less work on your body’s thermoregulation system. Chili in kimchi jjigae also contains ~47% of daily recommendation of vitamin A per 1 tbsp (source here). Chili’s heat content also helps in clearing up nose or lungs congestion during a cold. Therefore, Koreans often recommend consuming hot soup during a cold.

Purple rice contain similar nutritional profile to brown rice i.e. vitamin B1, B2, folate acid & minerals like iron, zinc, calcium & phosphorus. What sets them apart is purple rice’s high levels of anthocyanin antioxidants, essential amino acids like lysine, tryptophan. Purple rice also contains ~2x the amount of iron, zinc & fibre found in brown rice.

This dish would’ve gotten 5 stars if it had more vitamin-rich vegetables (i.e. fresh or lightly cooked) & protein (it only had small amounts of tofu & few pieces of pork).

Overall, Bibigo is a quality restaurant that serves up healthy, tasty & (seemingly) authentic Korean cuisine in a sleek & clean setting. I have no doubts as to why CJ sponsored them. The downside was the fact that all the dishes were very pricey.

More info & map here: http://www.dianping.com/search/keyword/2/0_韩国菜%20世贸天阶

– Izzy

“正一味 Zheng Yi Wei” Korean Chain Restaurant @Beijing, Chao Yang District 朝阳区

Last weekend, we visited the 中央美术学院美术馆 or the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum. The Central Academy of Fine Arts is the best fine arts school in China. Every year, around June-August, they hold a graduation exhibition. If you are an art enthusiast, I can assure that you will not be disappointed by the collection of works you will find there. Only 15 RMB entry, 10 RMB for students.

In order to get to this museum we needed to take the subway to the stop called: “Qing Nian Lu 青年路”. Just outside of this stop are shopping areas, including a popular chain mall called 悦城店 or Yue Cheng Dian or Joy City. This one was called “Chao Yang Da Yue Cheng Dian 朝阳大悦城店”. This place was where we found 正一味 or Zheng Yi Wei, which is a Korean chain restaurant in China. 

Korean food tend to be very healthy, will this one live up to Korean standards?


Kimchi noodle soup

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made of pickled vegetables. In terms of macronutrients, it contains mostly carbohydrate, fibre, ~2g of protein & 32 calories per 100g.  It is a great source of probiotics (lactic acid bacteria), which helps in maintaining a healthy gut; in addition to containing large amounts of vitamin C, carotene (>50% daily recommendation in one 100g serving), vitamin A (>20% in one serving), thiamine, riboflavin, calcium & iron (all >10%).

Udon noodles are often considered healthy as they are very light & easily digested. This allows energy to be quickly absorbed. Their caloric value is similar to those of other noodles like rice noodles (192 calories per 1 cup cooked) or egg noodles (221 calories per 1 cup cooked). Udon provides ~229 calories per 1 cup cooked (source here). Other than protein & carbs, udon contain very little else of other nutrients i.e. fibre.

I believe a simple anchovy stock was used for the soup. Anchovy stock is low in fat & high in minerals like calcium & magnesium.


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Pretty good standard for a ‘fast food’ chain. The soup might have tasted a bit simple, but it was still rich in seafood & vegetables. It was also not too oily nor heavy.

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This dish was low-fat & contained many healthful ingredients i.e. kimchi, vegetables & fish stock soup. However, udon noodles still made up most of the dish. Udon contain very little nutrients. In addition, the dish was not a significant source of protein (max. 10+ g from udon noodles). *It should also be noted that cooked kimchi or kimchi stew do not contain beneficial probiotics. These bacteria are most likely all be killed in the heat (I separated the kimchi topping from the soup immediately).  


Cold noodles 

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The noodles were chewy & light (again, not bad for a fast-food chain). The julienned kimchi topping was also very distinctive. Other than these good points, the cold soup was too sweet & vinegary, the pork was slightly tough & tasteless.

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I am not sure whether these cold noodles were made from wheat or buckwheat noodles. In any case, one cup of cooked wheat noodles (~220 calories) contain 55% daily recommendation of selenium, 12% phosphorus, >5% of vitamin Bs. It will also contain ~7g protein & 8% daily recommendation of fibre. Buckwheat noodles on the other hand, contain ~192 calories in one cup, 8g protein, 37% manganese, 14% magnesium, 14% phosphorus, 18% daily recommendation of thiamine, 9% niacin & folate. The micronutrients amount seem comparable, however, buckwheat noodles are also known for containing lots of fibre & having a high amino acid score for a plant food (up to 100 per serve). Amino acid score is a method of measuring the amount of amino acids in a food & its digestibility; in other words, a food’s protein quality (more info here). Wheat noodles usually have a score of >60 per serve. But in conclusion, both types of noodles are not bad carb choices.

Pork is a good source of protein & since it isn’t red meat, it contains smaller amounts of cholesterol (depending on the cut). Two ounces serving (56g) contain 32mg cholesterol (10% daily intake), 64 calories, 6 g protein, 30% niacin, 20% thiamin, 18% vitamin B6, 36% selenium, 18% phosphorus, etc.

Boiled eggs are also a very healthy food. One boiled egg has an amino acid score of 132. Half a boiled egg contains 39 calories, 36% daily recommendation of cholesterol, 3 g protein & small amounts of many essential vitamins & minerals.

As mentioned earlier, uncooked kimchi contains plenty of vitamins, minerals & probiotics for your gut.

However, because the soup was a bit too sweet, vinegary & does not contain a lot of vegetables, I only gave this dish 3 stars.


Fried chicken

Fried chicken is an incredibly popular dish in Korea & it is starting to gain more popularity in other countries as well. Since I have never eaten Korean fried chicken before, I cannot make a comment on the taste.

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Chicken itself is a healthy source of protein – very high in proteinnutrients i.e. niacin & vitamin B6 & low in unhealthy fats. Once deep-fried, however, this adds many excessive calories & unhealthy oils to the chicken. One serving (100g) of deep-fried chicken may contain 25 g protein, but it also comes with 298 calories & 13 g fat (20% daily value). Comparing to one serving (100g) of roasted chicken, which contain ~200 calories (depending on the cut), 30 g protein,  8 g fat (12% daily value). The healthiest chicken to eat is free-range or organic, as they are unlikely to be contaminated w/ antibiotics or hormones.

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Most of the dishes @正一味 Zheng Yi Wei are from mid-20 to mid-30 RMB each. It is not considered expensive, but average for a restaurant in Beijing. The taste is nothing exceptional though. More info about 正一味 Zheng Yi Wei @Chao Yang District 朝阳区 here: http://www.dianping.com/shop/4060447

– Izzy


Methavalai Sorndaeng “Royalty Restaurant” @Bangkok, Thailand

Preface: This post is dedicated to my mum. I had planned on writing a review on this restaurant before coming to China but never got around to it. And since my mum took such great photos (yes, I’m less tech-savvy than my mum) & Methavalai Sorndaeng was so great & definitely worth a try if you ever visit Bangkok, I felt I must write something about it!!


So, why did I call Methavalai Sorndaeng a royalty restaurant? Back in the days, the Thai royal family or president would often invite important guests for a meal at this place. You will see that waiters wear uniforms of royal servants. Because this place has such a long & special history (established in 1957, as the manager proudly pointed out. He even told me to take a photo of the plate), it is often dubbed by Thais as a “ร้านอาหารโบราณ” or “antique restaurant”. This is also because of the 60’s aura of the restaurant & the dishes have been prepared in the traditional way.


Another huge attraction for this restaurant is its proximity to the Democracy Monument. Many things have happened there, both good & bad. The monument is definitely still an impressive-looking infrastructure. This photo was taken right from the main entrance of the restaurant.

In any case, Thai food & portion tend to be quite balanced & healthy. Since this restaurant prepares traditional-style foods, can we expect good nutrition from them?


“แกงป่ากุ้งสด” or Jungle Curry w/ fresh shrimp

This dish definitely looks very oily & spicy, in fact, it is very refreshing. It contains only lean protein (fresh river shrimp), plenty of vegetables & antioxidant-rich ‘herbs’ like finger root or basil leaves. Curry pastes are usually stir-fried in oil before being added to the soup to create aroma, hence, you see some oil floating on top. This is in fact only a small amount.

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This jungle curry was mostly spicy, hot & tasted of plenty of herbs. I prefer my jungle curry to have a tinge of sweetness to it, hence the lower rating. It was also not strongly seasoned & they went a bit overboard w/ the herbs. The good side is the “fresh shrimp” which was very fresh (springy & light).

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Thai people have the belief that eating spicy food can strengthen your immune system (in fact, scientific evidence has proven this). Chili contains plenty of vitamin C & carotene for your skin & cancer-fighting compound (capsaicin). This soup definitely contains plenty of that. Other than that, the soup is filled w/ herbal plants like finger root (anti-bacterial, diuretic & digestive properties) & holy basil (aids indigestion, flatulence & helps w/ digestion). It also contain veggies like eggplant, string beans, bamboo shoots, yard long beans, cauliflower, etc. which all provide plenty of fibre & some minerals. The shrimp obviously provides lean, low-fat protein w/ plenty of minerals like calcium, iodine & omega 3 fatty acids.  

But why did I give this soup only 3 1/2 stars? Personally, I believe in “moderation” even w/ healthy food. Even though chili contain lots of great benefits, there was way too many in this soup. Consuming too many chili, rather than help w/ metabolism, may actually cause bloating & harm your stomach (more info here).


“ไก่นึ่งมะนาว” or steamed lemon chicken

This dish can be considered a Southern Chinese-Thai fusion dish.

TASTE starstarstarstarblankstar

The chicken piece used definitely contained a little too many bones (perhaps thigh part), but the meat was still very soft & the sauce fully soaked in. The sauce was very flavorful – spicy, sour w/ a bit of sweetness & pungent garlic flavor.

NUTRITION starstarstarblankstarblankstar

The best nutritional feature of chicken is definitely its high polyunsaturated fat content. Omega 6 fatty acids is incredibly important in regulating HDL/LDL cholesterols, promoting heart health & other health benefits (link to research articles here). In fact, ‘essence of chicken‘ is a popular Asian dietary supplement (so is drinking chicken soup during a cold – in the West). This dish is also steamed, which reduces the amount of oil used. However, because there is no nutritional variation in the dish I only gave it 3 stars.


“เต้าหู้ทรงเครื่อง” or tofu in brown sauce (gravy)

This is a popular plant-based dish in Thailand that non-vegetarians also enjoy.

TASTE starstarstarstarblankstar

Despite the tofu being deep-fried, the dish still tasted very refreshing & flavorful. Everything including the vegetables were also well prepared .

NUTRITION starstarstar1432568863_star2blankstar

Tofu is a good source of plant-based protein & minerals (like calcium & iron. It is not as nutritionally dense as many animal products, however, it is much lower in calories, cheaper & is easier to prepare hence making it a staple in Asian cuisine. This stir-fry also contain textured soy protein (often called TVP) which I don’t totally like since it undergoes more processing comparing to other soy products (homemade tofu uses thousands of years old methods). Nevertheless, soy protein is still a very good source of protein & essential amino acids for vegetarians/vegans.


“น้ำพริกกะปิ” or spicy shrimp paste 

Lots of Thai people believe our distinctive “น้ำพริก or spicy paste” contain numerous health benefits. Spicy pastes are often paired w/ plenty of vegetables which forces us to eat more of them. Other than this, spicy pastes contain numerous “medicinal ingredients” such as fresh chili, garlic, shallots, etc. The notion that spicy paste is healthy is still uncertain since spicy pastes often contain fermented ingredients, kept for a long time & fresh vegetables eaten w/ them can be contaminated w/ insecticide or bacteria. Hence, spicy paste is still not a food to be blindly consumed w/ the idea that they contain zero side effects.

TASTE starstarstar1432568863_star2blankstar

Typical spicy shrimp paste taste. Very sweet & spicy.

NUTRITION starstarstar1432568863_star2blankstar

As mentioned, spicy pastes are a melting pot of Thai herbs. They may contain nutritious ingredients such as fresh chili, garlic, shallots, pepper, eggplant, fresh tomatoes, dried shrimps, ground fish, pork, and fermented fish, etc. Some of these ingredients reportedly contain antioxidants and anti-ageing compounds that may reduce risks of cancer, heart disease (by 20%), epilepsy & brain diseases (Thai source here). Undoubtedly, the spicy pastes contain a dense source of nutrients like minerals (calcium, potassium, etc.) & vitamins (C, B’s, etc.) The nutrients are very concentrated, but so is the amount of salt, sugar & chili. For example, one serving of spicy shrimp paste is 55 calories. Most of the calories come from sugar, w/ a smaller portion from fermented shrimp paste & ground dried shrimp.

Spicy paste is definitely something to not be eaten in large amounts & every day. As it may bring risks of high-sodium & food poisoning. The best spicy paste to eat is home-made or bought at a store w/ hygienic standards.

As mentioned earlier, spicy pastes encourage consumption of vegetables (because of the spiciness, they are often paired w/ fresh/steamed vegetables or rice). Vegetables are high in vitamins and fibre which are beneficial to digestive, heart health, hypoglycemia (helps manage blood-sugar), etc. 


“หมี่กรอบทรงเครื่อง” or mixed crispy rice noodles 

หมี่กรอบ is a noodle dish traditionally served for royalties. Thin rice noodles are deep-fried then soaked in a sweet sauce made w/ tamarind & palm sugar. หมี่กรอบ is often served w/ sides like fresh mung bean sprouts, chives & in this case, shrimp & pork.

TASTE starstarstar1432568863_star2blankstar

It’s a dish w/ all sorts of flavor & texture: sweet, sour, a little bit spicy,  crispy, fresh & slightly oily.

NUTRITION starstar1432568863_star2blankstarblankstar

This dish is not completely nutritionally balanced. Hence, Thai people often eat it as a side dish (w/ rice). The deep-fried noodles contain lots of oil, comparable to potato chips. Often, this dish will contain only small amounts of fresh vegetables like chives & mung bean sprouts (which in the amount served, contain small amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A & manganese) & meat like shrimp or pork (which will provide protein, vitamin B’s, cholesterol & some minerals). If you eat this entire serving, you will obtain about ~300-500 calories, ~15%-25% daily calorie recommendation, 25% daily calorie recommendation of protein, small amounts of minerals, vitamins & many grams of fat. 


“ลาบวุ้นเส้นเจ” or spicy vegetarian glass noodles salad

TASTE starstarstarblankstarblankstar

Not too spicy but slightly bland.

NUTRITION starstarstar1432568863_star2blankstar

One cup of glass noodles (usually made from mung bean starch) may provide up to 491 calories. It is a rich source of easily digestible carbohydrate. Vegetarian sausage is usually made from soy protein. It is a more concentrated source of protein & nutrients comparing to the same serving of tofu. One serving – 2 sausages (100 g) should provide 197 calories, 15.7 g of protein, 10.3 g of carb & 5.5 g fibre (source here). 100 g of tofu contains 70 calories, 8 g of protein, 2 g carb, 1 g fibre (source here). Both soy protein & tofu are sources of complete protein (contain all 9 essential amino acids). However, one serving of vegetarian sausage should contain at least 1 ounce (28 g, 95 calories) of soy protein isolate, which will provide 23% daily value of iron, 22% daily value of phosphorus & copper, 21% manganese & 12% folate (source here). Meanwhile, 100 g of tofu will provide 9% iron, 12% phosphorus, 11% copper & folate. Some nutritional values of one serving of tofu may be higher than of soy protein isolate, but over all, soy protein isolate still contain a higher percentage & protein content. The % of soy protein in vegetarian sausage will vary from brand to brand. It should be stated in the nutritional label.

Wood ear mushroom is a good source of iron, fibre & vitamin B12. In Chinese medicine, wood ear mushrooms are consumed for its reputed cholesterol-lowering & blood circulation properties.

ลาบ or spicy salad are often paired w/ raw vegetables i.e. cabbages, mint & basil. Raw cabbage may contain plenty of vitamins C & K, but it also contain a special sugar called raffinose, which resists digestion, ferments in the large intestine & cause gas & stomach discomfort. Raw mint & basil on the other hand aids digestion & diarrhea. Marsh mint contain essential oil menthol, which has multiple medicinal properties. Sweet basil contain medicinal properties similar to those in mint. Other than digestive properties, sweet basil also has antibacterial compounds & plenty of minerals.

This dish contains a balance of carbohydrate, protein, fibre, vitamins & minerals. But here are some words of caution: glass noodles should never be consumed in large amounts as they will cause stomach discomfort & bloating. Raw vegetables in Thailand restaurants should also be consumed in moderation as they may not be clean.


“ยำมะระ” or spicy bitter melon salad

TASTE starstarstarstarblankstar

The sauce was sweet, salty, sour & not overwhelmingly spicy. The soft blanched bitter gourd & crispy roasted cashew nuts also made for a very interesting texture contrast.

NUTRITION starstarstarstarblankstar

Bitter melon contains plenty of health benefits such as  hypoglycemic (reduce blood-sugar levels), anti-inflammatory & cancer fighting properties. It is also very low in calories: 100 g (1/2 cup) provide 17 calories, 140% vitamin C, 18% folate & 11% fibre. In order to preserve the vitamin C in bitter melon, they are not often cooked for a long time (especially in South East & East Asian cuisine).   The main benefits of cashew nuts is definitely its cholesterol-lowering unsaturated fats, iron & protein contentOne ounce (28 g) serving of cashew nuts contain 157 calories, 12 g of fat, 5 g of protein, 10% iron & 20% magnesium. We need sources of unsaturated fats (best from plant foods or fish) in order to maintain optimum health i.e. brain functions & cholesterol management. Hence, nuts & seeds are highly recommended as part of a healthy diet. However, nuts, seeds & legumes contain high levels of phytic acid (more nutritionally delicious articles on phytic acid here) which interferes w/ nutrient absorption. Therefore, the best way to eat these foods is in roasted, sprouted or fermented forms (nuts sprouting experiments here). Because this dish was low in fat, sodium, sugar & contained both protein, carb, vitamins & minerals, I gave it a 4 stars.


This restaurant also provide live band performances during meal hours.


(Back entrance)

@Methavalai Sorndaeng you can enjoy Thai old-school atmosphere, great service & healthy & delicious Thai food. It is located in the Rajadamnern district & nearby tourist sites like the Democracy Monument & Khaosarn Road.

Map here:

– Izzy

Vegetarian Meal @Peking University Cafeteria 北大艺园食堂

It’s definitely possible to be a vegetarian in China. Especially, when studying @Chinese university. Why? Because university cafeteria here often offer plenty of meat-free options. This is to cut cost & make the meals cheap (at least in the north).

I’ve seen all kinds of Chinese tofu & veggie dishes in my time in two Chinese universities. Why don’t we see more Chinese vegetarian restaurants out there?


黑木耳豆腐酸汤 +西红柿炒花菜 Stir-fried tofu & wood ear mushroom in sour sauce + cauliflower & tomato stir-fry.


小葱拌豆腐 + 蒜泥黄瓜 Tofu mixed w/ scallions + cucumber w/ minced garlic (popular cold dishes 凉菜)


On the left: 南瓜馒头 Pumpkin steamed bun 

TASTE starstarstar1432568863_star2blankstar

The ingredients were not properly sliced, the food was cooked quickly & served hastily, but they still tasted very good! Wasn’t too salty nor bland – cooked to suit everyone’s tastebuds.

The dish that tasted the best: tofu mixed w/ scallions.

The dish that tasted the worse: Pumpkin steamed bun. The texture & taste resembled American corn bread but much more packed, bland & less oily. The worse is it didn’t taste like pumpkin at all. More like cornmeal.

NUTRITION starstarstarstarblankstar

IMO these dishes were all very healthy. All of them were cooked in appropriate amounts of oil. Just the amount needed for our bodies to absorb fat soluble nutrients like vitamin A & K(from cucumber, cauliflower & tofu).

1 cup (126 g) of firm tofu contain 176 calories, 20 g protein & 4 g carb. It include significant amounts of: 50% calcium (daily recommendation),  22% iron & moderate to high amounts of phosphorus, potassium, manganese & selenium. In other words, tofu is a very protein & mineral-rich plant food.

1 cup (100 g) of cucumber contain 15 calories. Most of this is water, 21% vitamin K & small amounts of vitamin C. 

1 cup (124 g) cauliflower contain 28 calories. It contain 6 g carb, 2 g protein & 12% fibre. It contain mainly vitamin C ~100% & vitamin K 22%. 

Who knows the exact nutritional value of the pumpkin steamed bun , however, I am guessing: ~200-300 calories, moderate amounts of protein, traces of minerals & vitamins & plenty of vitamin A & C from the pumpkin. 

As for the wood ear mushroom, tomato & scallions that appeared in small amounts, these all contain lots of fibre, protein, iron, calcium, vitamin A. In addition, the micronutrients in tomatoes are better absorbed when cooked. 

In total, this meal probably contained ~600-650 calories (~30% daily calories) which is just right for a very nutritious lunch. For optimum nutrient, swap some of the tofu out for a bit of animal protein like small pieces of pork or an egg (in the case of vegetarians).

– Izzy

Sushi Express (Japanese Conveyor Belt Restaurant) @Chao Yang Mall 朝阳大悦城店 – 1st Beijing Post!

Preface: Welcome to Beijing, China. This will be the first post related to my current whereabouts. I must first sincerely apologize to readers & subscribers for such late update. I have been enrolled in a summer Chinese Language program for ~2 weeks now & it has certainly been intensive.

Will try to blog more often! Last time I was in Shandong, China (2014) & I did not blog for several months. That was a huge shame since Shandong food (鲁菜) is one of China’s Eight Culinary Traditions (八大菜系).

In any case, I have access to my website in China this time around, so Beijing food (京彩), here we go! 

I’m going to be different & start my Beijing food series with Japanese food. Last weekend, we went out for lunch & visited the Beijing Zoo. Somehow, we ended up @a Chinese-operated Japanese chain restaurant called “Sushi Express” (争鲜回转寿司) Why this place? 1. the store exterior looked very aesthetically pleasing 2. the fish looked very fresh 3. it was affordable (6 yuan 元 per plate) 4. conveyor belt food!! (くるくる寿司)


Just to give you an idea of the Sushi Express dining experience:




The food rotate around & around on small plates w/ hygienic plastic covers (which is apparently not practiced in the super-neat Japan). There is 100s (exaggeration?) of menu selections to choose from: desserts to sashimi to teriyaki chicken.

Every station is provided w/ tea cups, unlimited green tea (weak) bags, self-serve hot water (which appears from a mysterious source) & the usual Japanese or sushi condiments. They also provide 1 pack of wasabi & sanitary tissue for each customer. The overall feel is super clean & efficient.


From bottom to top: grilled clam nigiri sushi, cream-filled matcha & cocoa mochi, pudding & inari sushi filled w/ cucumber & crab meat. 


Turns out the inari sushi also contain fish roe (mentaiko). Far back: futo maki (giant maki)


I’m pretty sure this is kurage (jelly fish) in sweet & salty sauce. Meh. Not a great choice.


Teriyaki chicken


No idea what kind of fish but tasted like unagi (eel) & salmon or mackerel(?) aburi sushi (grilled part-raw sushi) 


Some kind of maguro sashimi (tuna). So fresh the blood bleeds into radish.


Salmon aburi sushi. Btw, their mayo is super ^%%R$%^&%^* I don’t know how they make it, but it makes me hate myself for liking it so much…


Hokkigai nigiri sushi (surf clam)


Yellow herring w/ kazunoko (preserved fish roe) sashimi


Gunkan-maki w/ curried crab filling. Meh.


Gunkan-maki w/ crab, squid & cucumber. Not so great.


End result.

In terms of taste, it’s a gamble. The aburi sushi, inari sushi, sashimi, maki & desserts were the best imo. The gunkan-maki, cold dishes like kurage or tako (octopus) in sauce weren’t so great. Over all:

TASTE  starstarstar1432568863_star2blankstar

RESTAURANT RATING starstarstar1432568863_star2blankstar


What about the nutrition? Many people tend to think of sushi or Japanese food (for that matter) as a healthy food. Is it really?

Health benefits 

Sushi in itself is a very clean, low-fat food containing mostly good fats like omega-3 fatty acids (from cold-water fish), plenty of minerals like zinc, iron, phosphorus (most seafood), vitamins (i.e. vitamin Bs), in addition to protein & carb. These are many of the nutrients you need to grow/repair your cells & maintain high energy levels.

A typical 8-piece salmon maki roll (w/ salmon, cucumber, avocado, rice & nori) may contain something like:

525 calories

26 g protein

62 g carbs

10 g fat

cholesterol 18% (daily recommendation)

6 g fiber

Vitamin A 27% (daily requirement)

Vitamin C 17%

Vitamin Bs >100%

Vitamin K 30%

Iron 15%

Potassium 20%

Phosphorus 21%

Selenium >50%

Manganese 40%

To put simply: all kinds of sushi, especially those w/ a high filling : rice ratio, will contain a lot of nutrients. The kind of nutrients & amounts will vary depending on the filling.

Is sushi fattening? 

Any kinds of food (except for maybe vegetables?) can be fattening (& potentially harmful) if consumed in large amounts. Most sushi (8 pieces) tend to range between 400 – 700 calories. These are similar amounts of calories comparing to a typical meal.

However, sushi tend to be less filling than a meal of (for example) teriyaki chicken w/ rice. This is because sushi, especially maki rolls tend to contain less protein & more rice. The amount of vegetables use tend to also be less, resulting in less fibre content per serve. Fibre is important in promoting satiety, digestive & heart health. Sushi on the other hand, is also high in simple carbs which combined w/ small amounts of fibre, can result in high blood sugar. 

When high amounts of sugar in the blood stream is not used, they will quickly become stored as fat.

We also don’t often pair sushi w/ vegetable dishes, unlike in typical Japanese rice dishes, which often come w/ vegetables, meat & sides of pickles & miso soup. As a result, we tend to combine sushi meals w/ less nutritious sides or beverages i.e. sweetened iced tea or diet soda. This can possibly lead to weight gain.

In fact, sushi is not a meal Japanese people indulge in on a daily basis. Sushi is often saved for special occasions, parties & consumed in small amounts. I would advise Japanese food lovers to turn more towards healthier dishes like udon soup, soba, grilled fish w/ rice, Japanese hot-pot, donburi, etc., & only have sushi every once in a while.

Health risks

Many kinds of sushi consist of raw fish. The most prized raw fish are usually large marine predators, such as tuna. Not only do large marine predators may harbor plenty of parasites, they may also contain high levels of mercury.

Mercury can be very toxic when consumed in large amounts (usually gradually & regularly over a period of time) & it can interfere w/ body functions like blood pressure, heart beat & create skin discoloration. Pregnant, nursing women & young children should avoid raw or cooked large fish completely (list of mercury levels in fish here).

Raw fish will always have the potential to contain some parasites i.e. flukes, roundworm, tapeworms. These can wreck some havoc in your body. Luckily, most high-quality raw fish we eat today have been flash-frozen ( −60 °C) as soon as they are caught or kept frozen until they arrive at the restaurant. This maintain both the freshness of the fish & kill the parasites.

As have mentioned in the previous part, it’s best to keep sushi/sashimi for certain occasions. You might just get lucky one day.

Over all, I would give sushi/sashimi a nutrition rating of: starstarstarblankstarblankstar (because of potential health risks)

Sushi Express’ map & details here: http://www.dianping.com/shop/6048469

– Izzy.

AOI Japanese Restaurant Review @The Emporium Mall

AOI is one of the finest Japanese restaurants in Thailand. It prides itself in authentic recipes & extravagant presentations (website here).

We were meeting w/ a family friend who is also Japanese, so this place was a fitting choice. Many of the restaurant’s customers were Japanese so this place is Japanese approved 😉 

The orders that came first were vegetable-based (mine, of course):

2015-06-15 11.18.56

(rough names)

Grilled Eggplant in Miso Paste

I kind of changed up the menu names for better sounding… (80% of the English menu names @restaurants in non-English speaking countries make the dishes sound incredibly unappetizing).

I think the eggplant was actually baked.

TASTE – Very good. Although the eggplant wasn’t crispy, they were cooked all the way through & without being mushy. The flavoring was also on point – saltiness of miso & sweetness of sugar. The downside for me would be excessive amounts of oil which the eggplant was drenched in. There was probably more than 2 tbsp of oil in that eggplant bowl (which is not too bad) but unncessary.

What interests me is the fact that the Japanese & Chinese tend to use lots of oil in their eggplant dishes i.e. this Japanese grilled eggplant dish, Chinese stir-fried eggplant w/ pools of chili oil, etc. meanwhile, in Thai cuisine we have dishes like spicy grilled eggplant salad where the eggplant are 100% fat free. Could the oil be used to unlock the beta-carotene & other fat-soluble nutrients in the eggplant? The hot-fire cooking is understandable as a way to get rid of toxins in this Nightshade plant.    

But overall, it was so tasty I ate the entire eggplant bowl (that was meant for decoration) in front of my dad’s respectable friend.


NUTRITION – Eggplant has never been hailed as a ‘nutritional powerhouse’. It’s a plant of the Nightshade family that is not so rich in nutrients (per serve) but contain some antioxidants like Nasunin. What eggplants are rich in, however, is fibre. Because of its carb content, it is also more caloric-dense than other vegetables. Eggplant also have certain amounts of toxin, they are an allergen & even contain trace amounts of nicotine. That said, consuming eggplant every now & then should not do any harm. Just don’t get addicted to it! Perhaps this is why in Italian & Indian cuisine, eggplant are often pickled & consumed in small amounts? 

The eggplant also comes w/ lots of vegetable oil & a bit of sweet & salty miso paste. Miso is Japanese fermented soybean paste. Miso may contain beneficial probiotics & vitamin-B 12. However, miso is simply used in a small amount as a condiment here, so its nutritional benefit is negligible. This dish is, however, abundant in vegetable oil, which is harmful to your health in large amounts (click here for a simple explanation).

In conclusion, this dish is moderate in calories (max. 150 calories per serve). However, it contained a lot of unhealthy vegetable oil. It contain small amounts of vitamin C, B-6, magnesium & iron. It will also contain at least 20% of your daily intake of fibre (per serve). Although this is a vegetable dish, it should still be consumed in small amounts. This is something I definitely need to practice next time.


Grilled Salmon Salad

TASTE – The salad was just your typical lettuce w/ a bit of purple cabbage & tomatoes. The grilled salmon slices were very well-cooked. Slightly seared on each side leaving the middle raw. They also topped the salad w/ fried salmon skin which I thought were not very crispy & a bit chewy & oily. The salad dressing was very good though (Japanese sesame dressing). Over all, I felt the dish was a bit of a rip off since it was quite expensive by Thai standard & there were not that many salmon pieces nor was the dish very tasty either.


NUTRITION – Salmon is healthful in many ways. It contain plenty of vitamin Bs, good Omega-3 fatty acids & is a great source of protein (100 g = 20 g protein or 40% daily recommendation). Lettuce contain mainly vitamin A, purple cabbage & tomatoes will provide small amounts of vitamin C. 1 serving of this salad w/ dressing (1/2) will provide ~200 calories or less, ~10 g protein, ~50% daily value for vitamin A, ~10% daily value for vitamin C, (this is difficult to say) >600 mg of Omega 3. It is doubtful the sesame salad dressing provide any nutrients other than fat, sugar & flavor.


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Here’s the definite star of that dinner:

2015-06-15 11.20.34

Wagyu Beef Steak 

Undoubtedly, the taste must be great. Why? Because this 6 piece Wagyu dish was so so so so so so so so so so so so expensive. The most expensive Wagyu I’ve ever eaten.

TASTE – Not to say this dish was not tasty, it was not worth the ridiculous price tag. One bite of this beef & it’s a juice explosion in your mouth (okay, this is a bit exaggerated. But the pieces were very fatty). The beef was a bit rough on the edges but moist in the center. There was absolutely 0 beefy smell. I also tried the side veggies (potato & asparagus). They tasted incredible. High-class veggies right there (just kidding). Actually, the potato was very special in which I couldn’t even tell it was potato in the first bite. It was very well-cooked & its texture delicate. Slightly sweet w/ no flouriness.


NUTRITION – In fact, Wagyu beef do not contain that many more calories than normal beef. Its meat may contain more fat content, but often they also contain less protein. In addition, Wagyu beef is prepared in the most natural manner to preserve all its flavors. This means they are often grilled without oil or other additives. Wagyu cattle are also raised in much better conditions. They are often raised in the open, not in a crowded manner & fed high-quality feeds. Wagyu beef contains a high amount of monounsaturated fat, oleic acids & iron. They also contain protein & very little cholesterol. The Wagyu steak is served w/ sour ponzu sauce, chopped chili & scallion. 1 serving of this Wagyu steak (3 pieces) w/ veggies & sauce will provide ~250+ calories, 20 g protein, small amounts of carbs, vitamins A, B, C, some minerals (including iron from the beef) & healthy fats.


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2015-06-15 11.21.53

Buri Fish Stew w/ Ginger

TASTE – The stew is very flavorful. The fish portion used was the fin, which was fatty & very tasty. Its fattiness was balanced w/ crispy asparagus & fresh ginger.


NUTRITION – Buri or the Yellowtail Amberjack is not an oily fish. It is high in protein & nutrients like Bs, D, E & minerals like phosphorus & potassium. The piece of fish used in this dish, however, is quite fatty (for making stew). Nevertheless, the fatty part contain monounsaturated fatty acids. The soup has also been stewed w/ radish, which is rich in fibre, cancer-fighting compounds & other antioxidants.


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Other than the dishes pictured above, we also ordered cold soba noodles, which I had forgotten to taken photos of… The soba were expectedly high-quality & flavorful. Soba has been consumed for centuries by the Japanese as a healthy carb alternative. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat & contain plenty of amino acids, minerals & are low in calories. Read more about soba here. There were also Japanese green tea (highly recommended) & Singh Beer, which you can read about their nutritional value here & here.

This restaurant may be $$$$, but it also serves up healthy & authentic Japanese cuisine. If you are looking for top-grade atmosphere, quality & flavor, this is the place.

Map here:

– Izzy.

2,010 Calorie Cold Stone Shake Named Worst Drink In America

This is pretty shocking! C’ mon people, there are so many better, healthier, and more delicious alternative drinks out there! i.e. http://talesofakitchen.com/desserts/mint-cacao-frosty-smoothie/ or this https://www.relayfoods.com/recipes/FGRX6

23 Traditional Ways To Eat Sriracha – My Latest BuzzFeed Post!

So, I wanted to shed some light on the origin of Sriracha sauce & how they were eaten before now where they go into everything from Subway (Sriracha mayo) to donuts (Sriracha icing??)

This BuzzFeed post also represent myself and many other Thais’ shock when they first come face-to-face w/ the Sriracha sensation in the US (and also Europe). We are definitely proud that almost everyone of all walks of life can now say the Thai word “ศรีราชา” (Sriracha – See-ra-sha) although many still pronounce it wrong… On the other hand, some Thais are also frustrated that a Vietnamese businessman (Huy Fong Foods) has received full credit over the popularization of the traditionally Thai hot sauce (angry Thai article about Huy Fong’s Sriracha: http://www.matichon.co.th/news_detail.php?newsid=1362897723). 

This claim is debatable as David Tran never patented the sauce nor exerted it was Vietnamese or his own. In fact, he even named the hot sauce in honor of the recipe he had adapted. So, should Thais be angry or happy?

Here is an interesting(?) documentary about the origin of Sriracha…: http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/374917/the-origin-of-sriracha/

Click on the BuzzFeed screenshots below for 23 Traditional Ways To Eat Sriracha:

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 4.08.56 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-27 at 4.09.16 PM

(As an extra) while writing about Sriracha, I remembered this Tiger Zoo I had visited multiple times as a child. It shared the name of the world-famous sauce:

Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Pattaya
Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Pattaya

Credit: http://www.stangtravel.com/13646944/pattaya-sriracha-tiger-zoo

To Thai Tourism Industry: if you really want to ride the Sriracha wave, how about do a “Sriracha Tour in Thailand”? I can guarantee plenty of destinations for the itinerary & bands of hardcore Sriracha followers.

– Izzy

Boston Trip Day 1 – Quincy Market (Faneuil Hall Marketplace) + The Most Delicious Oysters!

Preface: So, we went on a 3 Day & 2 Nights Boston trip with the purpose of visiting some colleges in the area. It was just my brother & I. And since we are both foodies, we had the freedom to explore all sorts of food destinations in the city (most of them nutritious, of course!)

Our first destination was:

Quincy Market, otherwise known as Faneuil hall Marketplace (www.city-data.com)
Quincy Market, otherwise known as Faneuil Hall Marketplace (www.city-data.com)

Quincy Market (unofficial name) or Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

The marketplace is centralized around the Quincy Market building (Roman-style temple), and the nearby Faneuil Hall. The interior of the building contains all sorts of food stores which line either sides and create a hallway down the middle. I must also mention that the main dining area has a super epic-looking dome interior.

Quincy Market contained 2 dining areas on 1st & 2nd floors - located right in the centre of the building.
Quincy Market contained 2 dining areas on 1st & 2nd floors – located right in the centre of the building.

Great architecture – what about the food?

The restaurants all looked very creative & enticing: both the store designs & food appearance. For example, the over-the-top name signs w/ fun illustrations, display shelves stocked full of delicious-looking desserts (http://fratellispastry.com/home/), sizzling pizza bagels (http://bagelvilleonline.com), or juicy bacon-wrapped scallops (http://www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com/restaurant/fisherman-s-net/9895/36713).

However, out of all of them what we wanted to try the most were Boston oysters. Since the oyster bar inside Quincy was selling 6 for ~$16, we decided to head out the building to find a better deal.

Then, we came upon this seemingly popular oyster-specialized restaurant/bar Salty Dog.

They also had nice interior seatings!
They also had nice interior seatings

$14.50 for 6? It’s a deal!

Irish barman meticulously serving up our oysters
The sauce, lemon juice, and taste of the oysters themselves, combined was phenomenal

So, these oysters were delicious. Despite being dead, they still tasted very fresh (zero fishy smell/taste). Although I believe we should at least put not eating any animal alive before freshness! 

TASTE – As having mentioned; super fresh, 0% fishiness. Most importantly, the taste was also good – slightly sweet, with a bit of sea-salty (and real salt) tinge to it. Their seasoning combination (fresh mustard + tomato sauce + lemon juice *even better w/ Tobasco) tasted so great w/ the fresh oysters. The pinch of salt the bartender adds on just before also really makes the dish.


NUTRITION – Despite popular myths, oysters are not a high-cholesterol food. It has just about as much cholesterol as other seafood. In fact, oysters are low in fat and calories. 6 medium-sized oysters are only worth ~49 calories*. This serving size also contains 4.4 g of protein! (This is almost 3/4 amount of protein in 1 serving of mozzarella cheese (28 g), with a little over 1/2 the calories of the cheese. This means oysters > cheese = > protein = < calories.) Oysters also contain a whole lot of vital nutrients: it tops the list for high zinc, iron, vitamin B-12 foods, and also contains respectable amounts of magnesium per serving. Personally though, I am actually glad that oysters are considered expensive for many. Rich foods like these are meant to be eaten in meagre amounts; some side effects include bacterial poisoning (raw), allergic reaction, heavy metal poisoning. Oysters are healthy, but the best way is to eat them is the way you can afford (4 stars because the possible dangerous side effects – even pregnant women and children are supposed to avoid them!)


*Note 1: Also, keep in mind that farmed oysters have less cholesterol & calories, and may be even better for the environment than consuming wild ones. The calorie value referenced above is for farmed oysters.

And as for the Salty Dog Seafood Grille & Bar’s overall review? The barmen were all very friendly & attentive to our needs. The other waiters were average. The rest of the diners seemed to enjoy the atmosphere and service (including kids!) But because they forgot our salad order and ran out of romaine lettuce, I have to give them:


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Because the clam chowder in bread bowl looked so tasty, we also had to order one (this was within the Quincy Market hall). This time from Boston and Maine Fish Company.

Gigantic bread bowl – the width ~ my 2 fists put together

They basically won my brother over w/ their overflowing gigantic bread bowl.

Mussels pieces

TASTE – The chowder was a bit too starchy and flavor a bit too light. I’ve had better chowder w/ stronger seafood taste. Although they did include lots of small chunks inside. The bread was soft & fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The entire dish was ~60% bread, but overall it is worth $7. (For affordability + filling-ness)


NUTRITION – It’s difficult to predict the precise caloric value of the bread bowl chowder, but from averaging results from different sources + looking at the bread itself, it seems the bread bowl could be somewhere between 600-650 calories. It will not contain much nutrients aside (iron, vitamin B-6, magnesium) lots of carb, >3 g of fibre, and >15 g of protein. The clam chowder on the other hand, may contain even less protein (per serving) than the bread bowl. Most of the calories will come from carb & fat. 1 cup of generic New England-style clam chowder = 201 calories ~7 g protein ~21 g carb (~as much carbs as 1 chewy granola bar) and 0 g fibre. It will contain small amounts of minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron & trace amounts of vitamin A & C from plant ingredients like starch or potatoes. In total, this entire clam chowder bread bowl is probably ~800-850 calories (If you eat this entire bread bowl, 2 stars, since it is so full of empty calories)


Clam is usually a super mineral + vitamin dense food** (rivaling oysters, but w/ more calories + protein), but only tiny pieces are put in the chowder, therefore do not result in any significant health benefits.

**Note 2: clams are an excellent source of vitamin B-12, iron, and protein. Along w/ oysters they are a much better alternative to red meat in terms of nutrition & environmental effects. Most shellfish are high in bioavailable minerals like heme iron (the body doesn’t need to extensively convert, unlike non-heme iron found in i.e. soy products) & essential amino acids.

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I wanted some veggies so went to Mmmac n’ Cheese – Green Organic Salads. Unfortunately was met with an incredibly overpriced wilted salad that said ~$5.50 on the board but came out nearly $7. The cashier was very unfriendly, some of the veggies were 1/2 rotten, the ingredients were uninteresting (not even red onions in there!), and the dressing could only be used for 1/2 of the salad. Ultimately, the salad should have costed $2 at most.

Just look at the pruny cherry tomato! It’s worse on the other side…

TASTE – Very basic balsamic vinaigrette. The veggies that were not rotten tasted fine.


NUTRITION – I would just look at the nutrition of shredded lettuce since they put in so little of other veggies. ~150% of vitamin A and traces of vitamin C & Bs at ~30 calories at most. Including balsamic vinaigrette = ~130 calories in total (for being low fat + calories)


Since there was only vitamin A in the salad, I would consider this a nutritional & monetary rip-off.

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Then, we went ahead and bought dessert. A seemingly healthy one – toffee apple. But in fact, the toffee apple was 1/2 candy 1/2 fruit (http://www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com/restaurant/berry-twist/2137044613/2138824520). I didn’t realize these were different from toffee apples lightly covered in syrup…


We bought this for $8! Won’t you believe it!?

TASTE To be honest, the toffee apples in red syrup I’ve had back in NZ (@town fairs) tasted much better (not too sweet) than this candy + caramel combination. The caramel was too sticky + the taste was gummy. Candies + nuts used were just cheap kiddie sweets. BUT the granny smith apple was very tasty + faintly sweet, hence it’s a


NUTRITION – The bulk of the vitamins & minerals comes from the apple. Although Granny Smith apples have not shown to be the most nutritious variety out there (Pendragon apples); they still contain respectable amounts of vitamins C, Potassium, fibre, and some antioxidants. As for the candy sides of it: m&m minis, chopped peanuts, sprinkles, and at least 1/2 cup of caramel all probably equate to at least 200 calories. Including the apples that would be ~300 calories. 


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So, the Quincy Market food experience was pretty mixed. The most of it was great: pretty surroundings, friendly + lively atmosphere, and the food was mostly pretty good. As for nutrition, they had plenty of healthful options & lots of veggies. It is only up to you to choose good health or overindulgence.

Here is a map of the market:

Later, we went on an after-dinner stroll towards the Waterfront @Northern Ave

View of Boston's waterfront (near Liberty Wharf)
View of Boston’s waterfront (near Liberty Wharf)

Then, went to mess about @this place:

11281817_942707232416459_697797957_n Harvard Club of Boston

Don’t try this at home.

And walked towards Freedom Trail

Old State House

Strolling around Downtown Boston on a not-cold night – what a beautiful conclusion for our 1st night in this historic city!

Stay in tuned for Boston Trip Day 2!

– Izzy

My New BuzzFeed Food Posts!!

I just realized I have not shared my BuzzFeed posts with my WordPress readers! I have only started writing on BuzzFeed and hence the posts may not look as professional as some of the food buzzes you may have read on their website. Nevertheless, I have added my own style to the post and included lots of nutritional reviews and healthy eating suggestions.

For those of you who don’t know what BuzzFeed is, it’s one of the hottest internet news website right now (kind of like Huffington Post). It’s based in the States.

Here are my posts:

(Click on the screenshots for the link)

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 10.31.31 AM

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 10.41.24 AM

Please tell me what you think (in the comment below or on BuzzFeed).

– Izzy 🙂

Atticus Bookstore/Cafe food & nutritional review @ New Haven, CT, USA.


So, this morning I had the chance to go to Atticus for breakfast. My brother and I were meeting with his friend, and this chic bookstore/cafe was the way to do it.

The exterior with wide window view and swaggering slogan; bright and unique interior with thousands of books lining the walls, and an island-style kitchen etc., were definitely impressive. But will the taste be the same? And most importantly, the nutritional value.

That morning, the cafe was packed. This could be due to: 1. it was the day after Yale College commencement, hence many relatives were still in the area 2. the food there is really delicious.

We were given bar seating (which I like a lot because it forces you to sit up straight during a meal)

Bar seating
Bar seating

We did not order “big” breakfasts aka bacon w/ scrambled eggs w/ bread, etc. Instead, we opted for croissants & muffin (which are still not the healthiest breakfast).

Here are our orders:

My brother’s

Amelie croissant (w/ coconut, almond, and cream)
Amelie croissant (w/ coconut, almond, butter, and cream filling). Can you spot the melted butter filling?
almond, raisin, coconut, butter, cream, etc.

Amelie croissant (w/ coconut, almond, butter, and cream filling) $2.85

Taste – the pastry definitely had a buttery taste to it, however, it was not flaky nor fluffy as it was not heated up when served. This also brought down the tasty factor of the filling which contained all sorts of texture like raisins, desiccated coconut, and a bit of almond pieces (?). The cream nor butter wasn’t smooth nor warm, hence making the filling taste more like icing (frosting). The flavor was mostly coconut, and its sweetness just right. This pastry had potentials but because of the dry and coldness, I can only give it 3 stars

Nutritional value – A typical almond croissant w/ filling (the closest to this creation) is ~560 calories. Most croissants are half fat (butter/vegetable fat) half carb (white flour). Butter has very little nutrient apart from vitamin A & D. Most of what you will get from the pastry would be a bit of protein, iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium from the flour. The filling contained too little raisins and desiccated coconut to amount to any real value. The almonds and cream may contribute a bit of calcium.

Nevertheless, there is more cost than profit here in terms of imbalance between calories consumed and nutritional value.

If you do not have time to make breakfast, instant oatmeal may be a better alternative with more vitamin Bs, iron, fibre, and less carbohydrate, (but also) less protein, per serving. Here is the catch though: Each serving of instant oatmeal is 1/5 the calories of one serving of croissant.

So, if you can fit it in your stomach, you can have 5 packs of instant oatmeal (choose different flavors too!) for breakfast, for the same amount of calories as one croissant, but 5 times the nutrients.

(nutritional value stars) 2.5 stars

My brother’s friend’s selection

Ham and cheese croissant
Ham and cheese croissant
Lots of ham & cheese inside
Lots of ham & cheese inside

Ham and Cheese croissant $2.85

Taste – Definitely tastier than the Amelie croissant. The cheese tasted real and not overdone, the ham was also not dry nor salty. The pastry was once again on point. This is ham & cheese croissant done in a classy way. 3.5 stars

Nutritional value – This croissant do a bit better than the previous ‘dessert croissant’ as the filling contains less fat and more protein. A typical ham & cheese croissant contains ~350 calories. Most of the calories will come from the pastry, which means it will contain similar nutrients as before, such as some protein, iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium. Some nutritional value will come from ham & cheese. These include a small amount of lean protein, vitamin Bs, vitamin Ds (rich in animal products) and some calcium. Nutrition rating 3 stars

Why such low rating? This is because although the croissant is not too high in calories (calorie ~a typical breakfast food), it still contains high amounts of fat from both the butter and cheese, which if consumed in high amounts and over time can cumulate inside the body as LDL (bad) cholesterol. 

For a quick, high-protein, and delicious breakfast opt for one egg omelette w/ cheese, ham (1 slice each), tomatoes, and frozen veggies for ~250 calories. You can have this with whole wheat toast for ~100 calories more (total of ~350 calories) – same amount as the ham & cheese croissant but w/ more variety & nutrients. These include: all sorts of vitamins and minerals from the egg, calcium from cheese, and a boost of vitamin A and C, and definitely fibre (that the croissant lacks) from the vegetables. With wholewheat bread, this will add a small amount of protein as well.

The amount of fat in this omelette will total to around 14 g comparing to 18 g in the croissant, of which half of the fat will be healthy fats/Omega 3 found in egg yolks.

My choice

Good ole bran muffin
Good ol’ bran muffin
Dense with bran and raisins
Dense with bran and raisins

Bran muffin (the seemingly healthy muffin) $2.5

Taste – Lots of spice flavors coming through (ginger, clove, cinnamon – I suspect allspice was used), branny texture (you can smell the oat bran in one bite), and raisins. Despite the bran, the muffin was still soft. The topping was the most delicious part – it was a mix of brown sugar and rolled oats. Not too sweet neither. 3.5 stars. Why such low rating? Because bran muffins are not very tasty in the beginning.

Nutritional value – I had presumed this bran & fruit-filled muffin that looked the most wholesome out of all three, would be the healthiest. I am not entirely correct. A typical innocent-looking (large sized) bran muffin is ~375 calories – more than a cheesy ham & cheese croissant! I’m not entirely surprised. Muffins require more flour to hold shape as it is not a yeast product (compared to croissants), and also a large amount of oil/butter/egg to give it moisture and shape. A bran muffin may contain less fat than a croissant, but it certainly will contain at least double the amount of carbohydrate. However, since a main component is bran, the muffin will at least contain a lot more of certain vitamins & minerals than the refined flour croissant. These include iron and magnesium. These mineral amounts may be even higher than those of instant oatmeal (1 serving). However, oatmeal (1 serving) are also 1/3 of the calories of muffins, and contain (although not in as high conc.) more variety of minerals & vitamins. 3 stars (because why refined sugar for breakfast?)

A quick and healthier option would be raisin bran cereal w/ a dairy alternative i.e. soybean milk. Your typical raisin bran cereal (not the super sweet, “crunch” kind) may not be that nutrient rich, containing trace amounts of iron or calcium unless it has been fortified. This is simply because bran is not a super nutritious food (it’s mostly fibre) in the first place. Cereal fortified with so much vitamins & minerals you can replace them as supplements, simply reveal that the cereal is so processed and junky they must pump all those nutrients back in. Soybean milk is a much better alternative to regular milk as it contains almost all the same vitamins & minerals i.e. vitamin D, Bs (besides calcium), no cholesterol, good fats (that may help lower LDL levels) and lots of fibre (which milk doesn’t contain). All in all, this breakfast would amount to ~310 calories, which means you can also supplement the cereal with a side of 1 navel orange (69 calories) OR 1 boiled egg (78 calories) OR 1 medium banana (~100 calories) for ~379-410 calories, which is roughly about 375 calories (muffin). If you choose these kinds of healthy sides, you will definitely get a much more variety of foods, textures, flavors, and greater volume and nutrients, for about the same calories as a bran muffin. Also, better for your blood sugar & waistline!

Across from out bar seats
Across from out bar seats

I liked the welcoming atmosphere of the store. They also had delicious-looking selections of artisan bread, which (if you sat at the bar) you can see being sliced up for you right from the loaf.

Speaking of which, Atticus is also known for super tasty breakfast menus (which they often serve up with their artisan breads) that “taste like the comfort of home”, and great service (aside from not heating up pastry that time). Also, of course, the scone (which there was only one left by the time we arrived at 9 am!)

Here are some interesting-looking cakes.

All sorts of delicious-looking cakes
All sorts of delicious-looking cakes
Coconut cream cake
Coconut cream cake

I also spotted a coconut cream cake in the display.

Coconut Cream cake

This type of cake is increasing in popularity in Thailand, and also increasing the waistline of Thai people. For those of you who like to believe: since this cake contains coconut (and in Thai variety, also coconut meat), it must be healthier than other cakes (or is it just me who thinks this?) That is wrong.

I have experimented a lot with healthy cake recipes which was a mammoth task. So different kinds of cake simply mean varying ratios of fat : flour : sugar.

Although coconut oil has gained plenty of attention the past few years for being an elixir of great health and forever youth (just kidding), this doesn’t make sugary coconut cream any better!

Nutritional value (not on this particular cake, but judging from past experience and typical ingredients) – Most coconut cream cakes will be based on white cake recipes which are basically plenty of delicious sugar, flour, butter/oil & eggs. Just from the cake base, you will get quite a bit of protein (about the same as eating an egg) & LOTS OF fat (saturated & cholesterol) & carb (including sugars). When the coconut cream filling, icing, and desiccated coconut are added, there will be an addition of trace amounts of protein, minerals i.e. magnesium, calcium, iron, ‘animal vitamins’ aka A, D, Bs, fibre (from the coconut), and definitely MORE cholesterol and saturated fat, well above 100% recommended daily intake (although the ones from coconut is considered medium-chain and not as bad). This means if you don’t want the fat to start piling up, your diet for the rest of the day (after eating this cake) should be plain salad. 2 stars

Snickers made into dessert? Wasn't it already?
Snickers made into dessert? Wasn’t it already?

Snickers bar bar – I’m sure you baking experts out there would know the deal with ‘desserts into desserts’ or ‘snacks into desserts’ desserts. What you are doing is no other than doubling the caloric value of those desserts by combining them into one i.e. Snickers salad (3/4 of a snickers + cream cheese + whipped cream per serve), Reese’s pie (all sorts of cream, reese’s cups, oreos, etc.), and definitely cake pops (cake made into more cake…) Nutritional rating… (without having tasted it) 2

Danish & croissants - seemingly wholesome breakfasts
Can you spot the lone chocolate scone?

Danish & croissants – seemingly wholesome breakfasts. European breakfast staple. Classic continental breakfasts must-have. I have talked about the unhealthiness of croissants already; in fact, danish pastries are no better. They contain the same basic ingredients: flour, sugar, butter/fat; but danish pastry recipes actually tend to contain more carb, sugar, and also eggs, which most croissants don’t have, and hence taste sweeter + denser. Danish pastries also always comes with sugary fillings and/or glazes and/or powdered sugar. They tend to come at about ~350 calories with no significant source of nutrients, similar small amounts of protein, but more calories than plain croissants of similar size (although this comparison is before the croissant is smeared with jam & butter). But what about the fruits/cheese fillings, do they add any value? The fruit preserves are pretty much pure sugar, ‘fruits’ that has gone through so much processing, heat & baking, that all that remains is simply desiccated fibre pieces. The cheese used is cream cheese, which should be called more like dairy fat than cheese. Nutrition rating 2.5  

Chocolate Pecan Flourless cookies
Chocolate Pecan Flourless cookies

Finally, a healthy dessert? These kinds of flour-less desserts tend to be lower in calories than their flour-containing counterparts. Without the recipe, it is very difficult to make any nutritional evaluation since there is so much variety in cookie recipes, let alone flour-less ones. Nevertheless, there is a trend with flour-less desserts in which they would either:

1. Contain LOTS of powdered sugar & egg whites (like macaroons)

2. Contain LOTS of fats & eggs

So, although less caloric dense, they will still contain very little nutrients but lots of unhealthy fats & sugar.

Overall, our breakfast orders have an average taste rating of 3.3 stars, and average nutritional rating of  2.8 stars. The atmosphere was great, waiters/waitresses were friendly. They had both unhealthy and healthy options for breakfast and other meals. Health & taste-wise, I would not recommend the dessert pastries nor the $1.5 coffee unless you are not a fan of coffee and just want a hot beverage. Not bad!

– Izzy

(Update) Post 6 Day Water Fast Recovery Diet – Day 2 & 3

Preface: I did not keep a food diary during this time, hence the list of foods are only off my memory and may be inaccurate. Also, very important, the food I ate is not the most ideal post-fast food. This post is simply to provide you with a personal account on the effects of breaking a 6 day water fast. 

I suggest you read my personal recordings of a 6-day water fast & post-fast Day 1 prior to this post. 

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The day after post-fast Day 1, I was not feeling as lethargic as the last few days of the fast, but pretty hungry. Since I woke up late, only brunch (breakfast & lunch) was on the menu for me. Afterwards, an afternoon snack and dinner.

Post fast Day 2

Brunch – cabbage soup + naval orange

Afternoon snack – large tomato (about 5*5 inches)

Dinner – naval orange

Reactions: Post-fast foods are supposed to be mostly liquid/blended, however, I only had a limited range of food in my fridge. To make up for this I chewed all my foods very slowly and thoroughly so my digestive systems don’t have to work as much.

The cabbage soup was my first cooked food. I drank the warm soup first slowly, then chewed the cabbage very thoroughly. The soup and cabbage didn’t upset my stomach.

Boiled cabbage in water.
Boiled cabbage in water.

I was still hungry so I had a naval orange – once again, I ate it very slowly.

I only ate when I was hungry. The hunger cues seem to suggest the digestive system was now ready to process more food. 

By early evening, I became hungry again, so I ate a large tomato (raw). For dinner, I ate another naval orange since it was the only raw food left to eat and why not have a high-vitamin C food to replenish my nutrient storage?

Post fast Day 3

I woke up not feeling as hungry as the day before (must be because of the larger amount of food consumed on Day 2 comparing to Day 1, and the digestive system still warming-up). Since I also woke up late, I did not have breakfast but had lunch with company.

Brunch – a very small portion of soup (bone broth) with tomato, potato, and tofu + one small piece of pork + a small portion of vermicelli noodles and veggies + mostly raw carrot slices w/ soybean paste (in total: <400)

Dinner – Cooked vegetables & bone broth.

Reactions: I made a few mistakes on Day 3. First of all, I believed that my digestive system would be working full-swing by this time, which was incorrect. Although I didn’t feel any stomach pain, I had a minor diarrhea after brunch.

Secondly, I had eaten either too much or not the right foods (@brunch time) for my condition. This is because I did not feel hungry (signs of indigestion) at all even 5 hours after the very light meal that I had at noon.

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Here are websites with better guidelines on post-fast meals:





And here is a useful quote from TrueNorth Health Center webpage:

Ending the Fast

When participants decide to end their fast, they are encouraged to gradually reintroduce food into their diet. This re-feeding process reinforces good dietary habits and typically requires a period of no less than one-half the length of the fast.

from: http://www.healthpromoting.com/water-fasting

Obviously, I did not follow this guideline thoroughly.

My summary of post-fast guidelines:

– The recovery period (when you are not eating normal meals) should last 1/2 of your fasting period. In the case of a 6 day fast – 3 days.

– Try to consume mostly liquid/blended foods on your first few days of the recovery. Raw fruit/vegetable juice are the best choices, followed by fat-free nutrient-dense broths.

– Eat mostly raw fruits/vegetables during the recovery period. The main idea is to re-energize the body, in a nutritious and quick way. Fruits/vegetables are easily digested and high in vitamins & minerals.

– Avoid foods that are not easily digestible during the recovery period, i.e. protein, fatty foods, etc.

My own tips: 

– Take it slow = eat and drink very little at a time, and very slowly.

– Consume only when hungry = in order to avoid overwhelming the stomach with food, and bloating.

– Consume bland foods (at least for 1/2 of your recovery days) = I believe the consumption of salty condiments may have played a role in giving me diarrhea.

I believe the goal is to take as slow as you can in building up to normal meals. Don’t worry about nutrient-deficiency (in the case of short-fasters (1-6 days). Remember that many fasters have survived many more days without even taking in any nutrients. The breaking of a fast is possibly more dangerous than during the fast itself as adverse reactions can happen quicker. Refer to my previous post for examples. So, it is important to strictly follow the guidelines (I am personally lucky to have good enough health to not have serious side effects other than bloating and minor diarrhea).

It is also very important that if you feel very depleted and sick during the recovery period, to contact medical personnels immediately. You may have a medical condition not suitable for fasting i.e. anemia or diabetes OR low electrolyte levels from the fast, that would require medical attention.

– Izzy.

My 6 Day Water Fast Experience – Benefits & Side Effects

Preface: So, two days ago was my first day of “recovery” from the 6-day water fast that ended one day before that. Let me first start with a short explanation of what a “water fast” is, and what got me into doing it? 

Water pouring into glass. White background

What is a water fast? It is basically a type of short-term fast (although I have read a blogger who had water fasted for more than 2 weeks!) lasting typically between 3-10 days; where the only substance one consume is water. The fast’s main purpose is to cleanse the body systems and organs off cumulated toxins, and in some cases to lose weight. You can visit this health clinic’s website for more specific instructions here 

Why did I fast?

1. I had gained a significant amount of weight through out the past semester. I was looking for a way to effectively and quickly lose weight (this point will be debunked later on in the post) 

2. I had also developed a junk food/processed food habit since being away from home; believing my health had declined greatly, I quickly sought to detox my body system. 

3. I had just read this article on GQ about this author who went through the same 6-day water fast and experienced wonderful results, click here, this was also around the same time I discovered that lots of everyday people actually practice/have practiced water and/or other fasts. 

This has inspired me to do the same. 

Note: I did not totally succeed in a full water fast. This is because I had a cup of coffee and two cups of tea during the 6 days (I had to order something at a cafe). But since the calories in these foods are so little, I considered the fast quite total. 

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Firstly, I would like to clarify a few of these common complaints/side effects of fasting:


First of all, the man who wrote the GQ article described his 6-day fast as “terrible, insufferable” and complained of headaches, restlessness, intense boredom and misery which comes with life without food. In fact, I did not experience many of these mentioned symptoms (I will talk more about why later on in the post).


I did not have any problems with sleeping at all. However, this claim may be inaccurate as on most nights during the fast I stayed up so late that as soon as I crawled into bed, I crashed into deep sleep.

Heightened senses i.e. smell and hearing

Personally, no.

Intense headaches and dizziness 

I believe a little bit on the 1st or 2nd day (headaches); slight dizziness when exerted lots of energy.


Not at all. In fact, I felt the most creative and excited in these past few weeks during fasting. For me it was such a great way to break the habit of snacking for entertainment/while on the computer. Now, I learned to replace snacking with all sorts of worthwhile activities.

Restlessness & waking up in the middle of the night/early hours

Not at all. I have been sleeping in and getting my full 8 hours.

6-day water fast is an intense and miserable experience

It can get pretty intense especially towards the 6th day, but for me, it has not been a miserable experience.

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1st Day:

Feeling incredibly fine, the extensive amount of energy could be due to all the heavy Southern Chinese food I gobbled down the night before. A slight bit of hunger detected.

2nd Day: 

I remember a faint headache either this day or the 1st. Not very hungry; otherwise, no other notable symptoms.

3rd Day: 

Not hungry at all, other than when having smelled delicious food scent.

4th Day: 

Not very hungry; similar symptoms to the 3rd Day *A pattern of waking up very lethargic and slowly gaining huge amounts of energy into the evening began here.*

5th Day: 

Not very hungry, but feeling more and more lethargic. However, the past few days I have been very sedentary, and hence saved a lot of energy. On the other hand, I actually feel worse than when I was roaming NYC all day on Day 1-2. This day was when I was starting to agree with the so-called ‘misery’ of fasting.

6th Day: 

Still not very hungry, but once again very lethargic. Same sort of sedentary lifestyle as for the past few days. I was definitely looking forward to some food and ending the fast on 7th Day.

Post fast:

Do not follow my post-fast diet. It is not entirely harmful, but is not the proper way to end a water fast. Visit the Truenorth health center website for more details. What they had suggested were blended natural fruit juice in the morning, and blended green vegetables in the evening. The aim is to get easily digestible and highly nutritious foods in the smallest amount for a faster’s fragile stomach and depleted nutrients. 

I did not have the luxury of a blender nor an array of fresh fruits and veggies, hence these were on my post fast menu:

1 sweet naval orange in the morning (perhaps the fruit was so sweet because of heightened senses, or because it was so ripe almost to the point of going off? I remember enjoying it like a pothead)

1 large tomato (~4 inches wide) for lunch

1 sweet naval orange and 1 large tomato for dinner.

P.S. Right now, not feeling hungry at all despite the small amount of calories.

I will post updates on day 1 and day 2 of post fast as time goes by. Update on Day 2 & 3 here.

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Here are a few symptoms many water fasters on the internet have not mentioned, and that are worth noting:

Lack of thirst 

I realize that many fasters wrote about the importance of drinking measured amounts of water each fasting day, however, some did not mention the lack of thirst (which comes with lack of hunger). This  can make drinking water feel forced for many.

Nevertheless, it is still important to drink set amount of water each day to ensure proper hydration and aid in the toxin cleansing process of the fast.

Lack of bowel movements

My bowel movement only began after Day 2 of post fast. However, urination has been normal.

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My personal positive results of the 6-day water fast: 


Better skin 

Only after post-fast did I realize how much softer my skin has become, and the lessen amount of pimples (which popped up during the junk food eating and traveling). So, during the fast remember to drink more water and urinate out all the toxins, people!

Weight loss

Since I only had access to a scale on my 3rd day of fasting (and do not have a measuring tape, which is much more reliable) I can only make estimations based on the rate I was losing weight up until Day 3.

After 3 days of water fasting I lost: ~5-6 kg or 13-15 pounds (this is mostly water weight, and if you don’t watch your eating & exercise afterwards, you may rapidly gain back all the weight. Recovery/post fast period is incredibly important!)

Hence, I can only predict that by the end of the six days I lost: ~10-11 kg or 22-24 pounds However, this seems pretty darn crazy, and judging from the mirror, it seemed more like I lost an addition of 3-4 kg or 6.6-8.8 pounds.

This is still an approximate weight (partially water weight) loss of 8-9 kg or 17-19 pounds after 6 days of water fasting.

This makes more sense as it correlates more with other faster’s results.

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So, should we lose weight with water fasting? 

Because the fasting time is so short, at least 50% of the weight loss will be water and not fat. Also, you are not supposed to be doing even moderate exercise during the fast as it is very easy to feel lightheaded, due to lack of sugar in your bloodstream. Exercise is an important component in effective weight loss.

I also found that I had a significant muscle loss during this period (that could not be simply due to sedentary lifestyle the past two weeks), where my muscly thighs went to sausage thighs. This was quite disappointing as maintaing muscle mass is not only important in burning energy, but also in maintaining strong bones.

In conclusion, water-fasting is better suited for detox rather than rapid weight-loss that can quickly pile back.

Why different fasters experience different symptoms/results? 

I did not experience many common symptoms of water fasting, such as intense headaches, etc., and I lost more weight than some others I have read of. Why?

There are a variety of factors:

– Different activity levels; resulting in more or less energy usage and weight loss

– Different amount of muscle mass; muscles take up more energy than normal tissue, hence the more muscles, the more energy consumption and weight loss.

– Different amount of fat; those with more muscles than fat may lose less weight over the same period as muscles are more difficult to break down than fat. And also, if you do not have a significant amount of body fat (take the BMI test prior), you should not do a 6-day long fast!

– Different metabolic rate; resulting in varying energy consumption and weight loss.

– Different genes? Why not?

Words of caution about a 6-day (or more) water fast

Water fasts can be potentially dangerous practices.

Lack of readily available source of energy/carbohydrate puts your body into ketosis, where energy from stored fat cells are put into use instead. This process is more laborious than simply taking up sugar from the bloodstream (at times I can actually feel the surface of my stomach warming up and sometimes going a bit reddish, which was super cool), hence this may slow down many of your body functions. I remember my reactions slowing, and blood pressure dropping; meaning getting up from sitting down or from the bed were done slowly and carefully to avoid dizziness.

Therefore, the best way to do a water fast longer than a couple of days is at a spa, retreat, or during a holiday where during the course you can relax, do some light blood circulation exercises, meditate or other spiritual enlightening stuff, and have someone watch over you. I wouldn’t recommend juggling a full-on fast while going to work/school, like this blogger whom i.e. caught buses, went to conferences, travelled across the city. She experienced pretty serious negative symptoms.

Toxins are not only stored in our tissue, but also more so in the fat, by fat-soluble chemicals. Therefore, when ketone bodies are made from fatty acids as a source of energy, an amount of toxic (that has accumulated due to your unhealthy lifestyle and eating) are also released within your body.

This is also where it is very important to drink lots of water to get rid of many of those wastes. If a fast is done for longer, more and more of these toxins will be released in a short period (unlike losing weight gradually over the years) and can potentially poison the body and its organs.

The most dangerous part of a fast might even be the breaking of it.

Here are some excerpts from Breaking the Fast (by Herbert Shelton, Hygiene Review):

The proper conduct of the fast is vitally important. There are really very few practitioners of any school who know how to conduct a fast or how to properly break one. A naturopath in New York City broke the fasts of a mother and daughter, who had been fasting sixteen and thirteen days respectively, on chocolate candy. The gastric and intestinal acidity resulting from this caused great distress throughout the body. I was called in on these cases, and it required four to five days of fasting to get them back into a comfortable condition. This method of breaking a fast is nothing short of criminal.

Dr. Wm. F. Havard records the following cases: “A young man twenty-four years of age who had suffered from chronic constipation and indigestion, fasted twenty-seven days after reading an article in a popular health publication. On the twenty-eighth day he ate a meal of beefsteak, potatoes, bread and butter and coffee. He was seized with violent vomiting spells and could not tolerate even a teaspoonful of water on the stomach. When called on the case I discovered an intense soreness of the entire abdomen and every indication of acute gastritis.”

“A young man about thirty who had fasted on his own initiative for forty-two days attempted to break the fast on coarse bread with the result that vomiting occurred and the stomach became so irritable that nothing could be retained. There was marked emaciation and extreme weakness and every indication for immediate nourishment.”

An Associated Press dispatch dated Aug. 28, (1929) recounts the death of Chris. Solberg, 40 years old art model, following a 31 days fast, which he broke by “consuming several sandwiches.” The sandwiches, a later report stated, contained beef. Ignorance and lack of self-control killed this man.

“Prof.” Arnold Ehret tells of seeing two cases killed by injudicious breaking of the fast. He says “A one-sided, meat-eater, suffering from diabetes broke his fast which lasted about a week by eating dates and died from the effects. A man of over sixty years of age […] his first meal of vegetarian foods consisting mainly of boiled potatoes.”

These cases help to influence many against fasting and yet they are the results of the worst type of ignorance and inexperience. Who but an ignoramus would feed a diabetic case a meal of dates after a week of fasting? Surely fasting cannot be blamed for this result. Before we talk of the evils and dangers of fasting let us be sure that these really belong to fasting and not to something else.

Another account of a guy who broke his 30-day fast improperly and was bed-ridden for a week after that (from Fitness Through Fasting):

Breaking a fast should definitely be planned in advance. Waiting until the last moment to determine what one is going to eat and drink is a recipe for disaster. Take it from me. I have done amazingly-foolish things in years past. One time I broke a thirty-day water fast at a friend’s birthday celebration with burritos, pizza, hot dogs and soda. What a great guy, huh? NOT!

The “celebration” was short-lived. I was bed-ridden for almost a week afterward and my stomach blew up like a balloon. I had severely irritated the digestive system which was NOTprepared for all of the trash I had abruptly dumped into it. I thought I was giving myself a “reward” for reaching my fasting goal. Instead, I got egg in the face and one heck of a health scare. What I did was not only ridiculously-foolhardy but also VERY dangerous.

Credit: http://personalexcellence.co/blog/post-fast-day-4/

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If you ask me what I think of the 6-day water fast I had just completed, I would say:

In conclusion, it had been a fun and interesting experience. I was very intrigued to see what happens in our daily lives when such an obligatory activity like eating (or even going to the toilet, no. 2) is omitted. Although during the fast, I still went to restaurants with my brother/friends or helped them prepare food, I was still rid of the obligation of sitting down and solely eating. It has taught me how to use my time more wisely, and that eating (especially addictive snacks, or high sugar/fat foods) is only one of the many sources of pleasure in our lives.

Even the post fast/recovery period (where I am only permitted to eat blended fresh fruits and mushy vegetables for the first few days) has greatly helped me re-embrace whole foods. Even watery cabbage that has been boiled in tap water now tastes delicious.

Would I do it again?

Personally, I wouldn’t do a fast this long again (as long as I can keep the current weight down..)

The fast had been quite taxing on the body, and I find that my previous methods of losing weight such as consuming large amounts of vegetables/fruits to replace refined carbs, and eating healthily in general, while ALSO exercising (which I had too little energy for during the fast) did not create negative side effects and were less likely to result in bounce back of weight.

Nevertheless, shorter fasts (1-3 days) should not do much harm, and is a good way to let your organs rest and allow your palate to readjust towards cleaner and more natural foods.

I hope this post helps, and if I had made any inaccurate claims please correct me!

– Izzy

Mother Burger & Grand Central food court review @ Hell’s Kitchen & Grand Central Station, NYC

After a morning of 1 hr and 30 minutes torturous wait at the Chinese consulate, we immediately sought out delicious and refreshing lunch.

We walked under New York’s glaring summer sun all the way from the 12th to 9th avenue. Then, finally settled at Mother Burger – a hip looking restaurant bar located in a little restaurant plaza-like setting. Some of the other restaurants include a health snack shop and a luxurious-looking Chinese restaurant, amongst many others.

Giant cow hung up on a wall

The restaurant was definitely uniquely decorated. It had weird decors like a giant cow, trophies lining high shelves (I wonder whether the owner is associated to a sport), etc.

Two TVs in the restaurant

Despite the antique ornaments, the furniture was definitely new or at least clean and sleek. The dark wood seatings induced a luxurious feel. The restaurant interior/exterior was a combination of old-fashioned steakhouse and hipster.

Another shot

My brother ordered the strawberry margarita $5

strawberry margarita – a popular drink

Apparently, incredibly tasty and refreshing, especially with the lime wedge and salt.

And of course, the Mother Burger, the restaurant’s namesake. Only $9

Quite large portion of meat for the price

Because of the cheap price, I worried about the quality of the beef. Could it be pink slime?

Hot burger patties oozing beef fat and cooking oil

Because the restaurant is not a low-tiered one, I figured they couldn’t have used low-quality meat..

Enjoying greasy fries
Assembling burger
Double the size of McDonalds, 40% more expensive?
Typical burger problem – falling fillings
Obviously enjoying this

Final verdict: 

The fries looked pretty good quality and so did the burger. My brother didn’t detect any sort of pink slime or floury taste (common of budget meat patties… I know all too well from my dining hall experience). The beef seemed relatively genuine. The buns were a bit floppy and disintegrate-y, nevertheless, this did not take away from the overall good taste of the Mother Burger. By the way, adding in the fries’ mayonnaise is recommended as the burger comes relatively unseasoned.

Taste 4 stars – both their signature dish and drink were pretty delicious.

Atmosphere 4 stars – welcoming, clean, and homey at the same time. The air conditioner was definitely working full swing!

Service 4 stars – I would give it 5 stars if they had WI-FI!! (exasperated shriek) Because the waiters were incredibly courteous and attentive. We were given personalized waiter. I asked him for water-refill about 3 times, and in the end, he gave me a huge cup with new straw. Haha! He also checked on us, asked us if the food was okay.

Cost 4 stars – Affordable; for the great atmosphere, air-conditioning, service, and large portions.

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Once again, we went to experience the high-class life at 5th avenue.

We passed by a Godiva boutique; because of the enticing chocolate-dipped strawberries mountain display we just had to go in.

Free chocolate truffles!

As soon as we got in, a friendly attendant gave us a free Godiva each. The displays inside looked amazing. Everything looked überly delicious. There were croissant-liked coated desserts, biscuits fully dipped in chocolate, and 100+ variations of Godiva chocolates encased in a large glass display counter. Drool.

We actually aren’t that great fans of sweets, and since everything looked expensive, we decided to quickly leave.

*We went to NYC again (and also the same Godiva store) yesterday, so I snapped a few images of what I had mentioned in this post: 

Some of the many chocolates on display in the rectangular window box.
Some of the many chocolates on display in the rectangular window box.
That day, they were giving out different flavor chocolate:
That day, they were giving out different flavor chocolate. I think this was chocolate lava.

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Then, it was time to head back to New Haven. We arrived at the Grand Central Station; and since it was already dinner time, we headed to the Grand Central Dining Concourse.

It was my first time there and I was immediately amazed by the luxurious atmosphere of the food court, with high marble/stone ceilings, and Romanesque architecture. The ceiling lights added more to the atmosphere.

Dining area of the Concourse

It looked so chic! The combination of neoclassical – modern was baffling to me!

Indian and pizzeria

They had varieties of cuisine from all walks of life.

Two Boots restaurant bar

This Two Boots restaurant, which seems to cater mostly pizza dishes, even had their own restaurant space. The interior looked very inviting by the way. Modern with lots of bright colors.

Being patriots, of course, we opted for the Thai stall with a funny name – Thai Toon.

Thai Toon

That’s what’s great about patronizing restaurants of your compatriots. The service quality doubles.

Our hardworking Thai ladies
Our hardworking Thai ladies
Extremely appetizing Thai food
Extremely appetizing Thai food
Chicken basil

Not very Thai, but very tasty. Thai Toon – highly recommended! Great service and food!

Grand Central Market

There was also even a fresh foods market! It looked very clean and well-organized too. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to browse the place.

So, that is the end of this NYC food review. Hopefully more to come. Hell’s Kitchen or Grand Central Dining Concourse, neither definitely disappointed.

– Izzy

St. Mark’s Place, NYC – Japanese restaurants hopping and review!

My brother and I were in NYC for two days to run some errand; and since it is summer vacation, this gives us plenty of time to waste (just kidding) explore the city!

Like most Thai people, the both of us are foodies. Hence, my brother decided to take me to explore St. Mark’s Place and satisfy our hunger for Japanese/Korean food. St. Mark’s Place is known as Manhattan’s tiny Japan town.

St. Mark’s Hotel – St. Mark’s Place street sign

So here we were at the beginning of the avenue.


Another view.


It was around 8 pm. There were lots of lights from the many retail stores that lined both sides of the streets in the area. The atmosphere was lively and bustling – though not quite as much as Thai night markets’.

There were stores selling cheap sunglasses, t-shirts, tattoo stores, and lots of (mostly – I did see one or two Western grills/BBQ) Asian restaurants. None of the stalls were of any interest; it was the restaurants that drew more attention.

Oh! Taisho Japanese restaurant

We passed by Oh! Taisho yakitori, the place we wound up at.

Forgot-the-name Japanese restaurant
Forgot-the-name Japanese restaurant

Many of the restaurants had very interesting exterior decor, with strange ornaments such as these. Almost all were crowded – filled with mostly Chinese college students… At least at the restaurant we went to!

Another entrance of the Oh! Taisho
Brother lining up at the entrance

There was no cue, and as soon as a waiter attended to us, we got a bar seat.

Interior of the restaurant, view from the bar seat near entrance
Interior of the restaurant, view from the bar seat near entrance

I must say that the atmosphere was pretty great – it was lively, the waiters were courteous and attentive despite the busyness of that night, and there were no annoyingly loud drunk people.

The interior and seats/tables were also pretty clean.

Further inside, just in front of the restrooms; there were photographs of customers on the wall

We sat out near the entrance, at the bar (Japanese izakaya style!), where night breezes cooled us down from the New York summer weather.

However, personally I preferred the further interior seats of the restaurant where there were a few interesting decors, the tables were much larger, and there was cool air-conditioning. Too dim for my liking though.

Nevertheless, there were also larger 4-6 people tables near the entrance and just outside – if one prefers more lighting and the calm night air.

Brother browsing the menu
Browsing the menu

I really love Japanese-style menu as a component of Japanese dining experience. They are just filled with high-quality images, bolded, colorful words, and little notes that makes picking out dishes so much more fun!

As you can see here, we had a pretty good view of the kitchen and the head chef. This added more to an atypical dining experience.

A look at two of the most popular signature yakitoris

Obviously, were not going to finish the party set by ourselves, hence we opted for the b-set. Both consisted of similar ingredients save for the Asparagus bacon, pork, squid legs, and pepper.

Hentai – nope, ‘mentai’ potatoes

I just had to include this in. I had a weird thought and mistook this menu name for “hentai potato”. We all know what hentai means. Turns out the word mentai comes from mentaiko which is Japanese for marinated cod or pollock roe. In this case, the mentai/cod roe was mixed in in mayo sauce, used as fries dip.

Try searching images of mentai on google (then following the recommended food combinations that comes up) – guaranteed delicious saliva-inducing images…

Agedashi or deep-fried tofu
Agedashi or deep-fried tofu

I saw a couple sitting a few seats away from us eating this dish. It looked soooooooo good. Even though we did not have enough funds to also order this; highly recommended just based on looks. Japanese tofu, especially deep fried, is known for being superbly tasty anyway – soft, crispy on the inside, with the addition of sweet soy broth and fish (bonito) flakes.

Looking smug with his Japanese beer.
Looking smug with his Japanese beer.

Unfortunately, I didn’t note down the beer brand. But be assured for good taste and quality.

Here is the B-set! Yakitori!

Chicken, beef meatball, scallion, shrimp, beef yakitoris (skewers) with 2 pieces each (10 in total) for $14.50. And also, the raw cabbage at the bottom (What is it with the Japanese and cabbage? i.e. okonomiyaki, shredded cabbage in almost every salad, especially with deep-fried foods)

In my opinion, I believe the pairing of cabbage and meat is (in terms of taste, not nutrition) to alleviate the fatty/meaty taste, which allows us to eat more of these kinds of heavy/meaty/oily foods. The same logic can be applied to Thai-style skewered meats/sausage – cabbage and chili is the usual combination for those.

Adding chili and soy sauce

Perhaps not salty/spicy enough?

Eating commence!

The verdict: the beef meatballs, although a tad bit overly salty, tasted the best of all – with a crispy and salty exterior, and sweet and chewy interior.

Destroyed one-by-one

The rest? The beef skewers were too dry and salty, the chicken was soft, but tasted average, the shrimp and the negi (or scallion) were pretty tasty.

Japanese chili flakes makes everything better

Overall, the dish was not bad – but not impressive (despite the fact that a Japanese chef cooked it).


I took this image of the couple next door (who were eating delicious agedashi before), to capture images of their okonomiyaki.

some Chinese couple’s food – (pictured) b-set and okonomiyaki

Why did I stalk other diners’ okonomiyaki? This is because this dish seemed to be another of the restaurant’s signature. I saw quite a few customers ordering okonomiyaki. It looked really delicious too – dense, soft, packed full of fillings and toppings.

Here’s a zoom-in

Other seemingly popular dishes include other kinds of yakitori, grilled foods (i.e. pig trotters which was super affordable at less than $5 per two trotters), deep-fried foods. The menu had a huge range which also included sushi, although I didn’t see anyone ordering those.


Sriracha and ramen??
Sriracha and ramen??

We found a white guy sitting next to us ordering Sriracha to eat with his ramen. Americans really can eat this sauce with anything… Next it will be Sriracha cake…

Final verdict:

Although their signature b-set was not super great, I’m sure their other dishes must be pretty tasty (at least they all looked really good!). How else could the restaurant be so packed on a Sunday night?

*Out of 5 stars

Taste 3.5 stars – still many other menus to try

Atmosphere 4 stars – Japanese-like atmosphere with the decor, setting, and Japanese ordering calls.

Service 3.5 stars – Attentive and courteous despite the busyness of that night.

Cost 3 stars – Most of the dishes were quite expensive, save for some i.e. pork trotters (cheap part of the animal)

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Afterwards, we went for Momofuku Noodle Bar, which was about 15 minutes walk from where we were, however, we were lost so that could probably account for the time frame.

A few blocks away from Momofuku, we accidentally came across this Thai restaurant. This was only because some strange liquid had dripped onto my eye from an apartment by the sidewalk. Hence..? We had to find the nearest shop to go rinse it off.

“Ngam” Thai restaurant and bar

Then, just before exiting we overheard a female Thai chef speaking in Thai to someone else. At that time we finally saw that the name of the restaurant was “Ngam” or “beautiful” in Thai.

If we have time, will try pay a visit. It looked like a high-quality restaurant.

By the time we got to Momofuku it was probably 9 pm (since the yakitori took 30 minutes to cook) and it was so dark that the image I took of the restaurant entrance looked incredibly hazy.

Therefore, I will just describe the restaurant in words instead – the entrance was simple, with a large window allowing passersby to look into the restaurant, vice versa. The door is inscribed with the simple characters: Momofuku with their peach logo. The interior is clean and chic, mostly covered in pale-coloured wood. There were bar seatings and proper table seats. Since I am at it, let me just mention that the toilets were also pretty nice (better than Oh! Taisho which was small and kind of dirty).

So, here is the momofuku menu:

momofuku menu

Momofuku’s way of rebelling against the sriracha craze:

Momofuku own home-made ssam sauce – their own version of Korean chili sauce

It pretty much tasted like your typical Korean spicy sauce (hence much more different than sriracha whose main flavors are spicy and sour). This is sweet, spicy, with a hint of orange (?).

They also had this special frozen beverage that was popular amongst diners. Unfortunately, I didn’t ask what it was, nevertheless, looked very delicious in a glass. Like an orange-coloured milk shake.

Momofuku frozen beverage

Here is the main dish – spicy miso ramen:

Momofuku spicy miso ramen

It contained smoked chicken, poached egg, incredibly chewy and delicious Korean-like noodles, seaweed, and refreshing raw baby spinach which worked well in balancing out the heaviness of the dish. $15

ssam sauce with noodles

Unfortunately, the soup was too salty. So, we were only left to enjoy the meaty and noodle-ly parts of the dish. Ssam sauce tasted great with the dish.


We caught a waitress measuring alcohol with a conical flask.

Drinking alcohol in flask

Final verdict: 

The miso ramen was not the best. I don’t know what their other dishes was like, but I also caught a glimpse of their “bun” range or mantou that comes with all sorts of fillings. From the look of it, the mantou looked kind of hard, perhaps the fillings are super tasty to balance this out?

Anyway, the restaurant was very crowded, owing possibly due to the fact that Momofuku is such as big name in NYC. The food was okay; the atmosphere, nevertheless, was very nice.

Taste 3.5 stars – the miso ramen was average, however, we have not yet tried other dishes.

Atmosphere 4 stars – Chic interior designs, non-rowdy diners. Although, for me it looked a bit too simple and lacked the charms of Japanese/Asian restaurants. I would prefer the atmosphere of Oh! Toshio.

Service 3.5 stars – Pretty good service, no negatives.

Cost 2.5 stars – Expensive, for the amount of meat or other ingredients (aside from noodles) that they gave us.

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About 40 minutes or more later, we visited the Momofuku milk bar which was about 10 minutes away from the noodle bar.

The shop was pretty much about the size of an office room (at least the serving space) and there was a line even late at night. Inside, there was only a small counter to chill for a few minutes before heading out since the space is so limited. On the outside, however, they have recently installed brand-new sitting benches where customers can sit around before heading off.

The shop is not easy to spot, but it has a neon sign with the sole word “milk” that makes it stand out.

Waitress serving customers

The restaurant was cutely decorated with posters and little black message boards. They also had a rack selling popular biscuits, products, and even dog food..

Waiting in line
Waiting in line

Momofuku milk bar sells the famous crack pie (which I caught a glimpse of in the display! I had read a biography of the founder a few years ago, hence, was very excited see the aforementioned food. In fact, the very same book was also on display on the rack), crazy layered cakes, other desserts, and soft-serve $4.50


The soft-serve was incredibly milky, and most impressive were the crunchy and cheesy cornflakes which they generously coated on all sides.

close-up of the milky soft-serve

Final verdict: 

We have ever only tried the soft-serve, which was already very delicious. Undoubtedly, the other desserts must also be very tasty, for the milk bar to earn such world-wide recognition!

Taste 5 stars – Hokkaido-style milky taste, and uniquely delicious cornflakes crunch.

Atmosphere 2.5 stars – Despite the cute interior, the shop overall doesn’t really have a “restaurant/bakery shop environment”.

Service 3.5 stars – Normal service, no rude cashiers. It is a ‘grab and go’ sort of shop.

Cost 2.5 stars – pretty expensive for a single soft-serve whose proportion was also pretty small.

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So, that is pretty much it for our St. Mark’s Place adventure (we did get off the area for the last two reviews…) and food review. I hope you readers enjoyed my new restaurant review star system rating! I believe I will keep this up, if it works.

And make sure to at least give this place a visit whenever you are in New York! Good food awaits you!

– Izzy

P.S. Next post will be another NYC restaurant review – Mother Burger and Grand Central Concourse!

Sushi on Chapel, New Haven, CT – Restaurant review

A few days ago, my brother and I went to a Japanese restaurant, Sushi on Chapel, with the purpose of having Korean food. This was as close as one gets to Korean food in the Yale area.

The location of the restaurant is not bad. Not too far away from Yale, on Chapel Street (One of Yale’s few high streets). It is located in the ‘underground’. The interior of the restaurant is pretty neat, on the surface it looks pretty high-class. Dimly lit with very little windows.

(Note to self: next time will take more photos of the restaurant with my crap phone, or maybe finally get a professional blogger camera)

The restaurant, which sells a variety of Japanese dishes such as miso soup, donburi, but mostly sushi and sashimi, also has a small menu section for Korean. Apparently, the restaurant owners are Korean.

We didn’t order much: Bulgogi set, spicy fish salad, house salad, and uni sashimi. That all surprisingly came to $40+ including tax!

Here are images of the food:

Spicy fish salad
Spicy fish salad

Spicy Fish Salad (taste review): they used a Korean sweet red chili paste for the dressing. I think they used some kind of tuna fish for the sashimi, and some other kind of lean white fish. They were surprisingly generous with the fish, but not with the salad – hence making the salad too sweet. When asked for more salad, the waitress made us make another order for house salad which cost $4. Not impressed.

Although I loved the ginger salad dressing popular in the Asian restaurants here in the US.

Over all, the sashimi was fresh, the sauce was tasty, and the price was only ~ $12 (or perhaps less?). Pretty good for the amount of sashimi given.

Uni sashimi
Uni sashimi (two pieces placed prettily in half a lemon)

Uni (sea urchin) sashimi (taste review): I didn’t order the sushi version because I was greedy, and their policy was you get two pieces of seafood with sashimi, and only one with sushi. I’ve been craving uni or scallop sashimi ever since I’ve come back from Thailand. $5. Totally fishy. I’m not an uni connoisseur, but I have eaten enough fresh seafood/sashimi to know what is fresh and not.

Addition of lemon/soy sauce/wasabi/pickled ginger was a must with this dish. 

If you are an uni fan, you may be disappointed.

Tip – Squeeze the lemon bowl so the juice comes out and mix with the uni. And is also fun to do.

I stupidly didn’t take any photo of the beef bulgogi set my brother ordered. So here is a google image to give you the picture:


It definitely didn’t look like this. The beef was dry and thinly sliced (hence dry), and there were mostly vegetables. Nearly $20 (forgot the exact price) for about 3/4 cup of dried beef, mounds of veggies (carrots, onions, and some peppers?), a bowl of purple (50/50 white) rice, and house salad with ginger dressing. This was definitely an overpriced but heart healthy dish.

I wouldn’t recommend this dish (although the seasoning was pretty good).


Positives – Healthy = they mostly served purple rice in their sushi rolls, rice bowls, etc.

– Tasty = tasty food that is mostly tasty because of the store-bought sauces

– Fresh = fresh veggies, and fresh cheap sashimi fish.

– Affordable = only some of the menus.

– Atmosphere = pretty lively with lots of college kids filling the tables.

Negatives – Minimalistic space = the tables are super small, especially for two, which takes away from an enjoyable dining experience.

–  Mediocre service = the waitress who was serving us wasn’t very friendly. And made us pay for another order of house salad instead of adding a few leaves to our leafless fish salad.

All in all, this restaurant is not bad for eating sushi – the sushi rolls looked colorful, healthy, and delicious (don’t know about the price though). Personally would not recommend the Korean dishes. Well, it is a Japanese restaurant after all.

– Izzy

Will your damaged teeth grow back – can we replace fillers with a nutritious diet?

In recent years, there have been discoveries with regards to new ways of fixing decayed teeth or enamel, that is – laser treatment. Scientists have discovered that low-powered lasers may be used to activate stem cells and stimulate teeth growth. Its commercial use is currently still being developed.

My question is – is there a cheaper alternative? Can nutrition be used in fixing damaged teeth? It seems that better nutrition can be used to fix many health issues from arthritis to skin problems. What about tooth decay?

General knowledge


Once a tooth chips or breaks, it will never repair on its own. This is because there are no living cells in enamels (in comparison to bone, another calcium-rich organ, which is the house of bone marrow that is abundant in stem cells). Therefore, the damage is done forever. Or is it?


Mi paste??
Mi paste??

You would have seen a few dental care products out there that claim to restore damaged teeth by ways of remineralization, including through “fluoride varnish” or “calcium and phosphate paste”.

So what is exactly remineralization? Remineralization is the process in which naturally occurring minerals  such as calcium or phosphate (found in the saliva) are added to the effected areas to adhere to weak spots and repair them. Unfortunately, those patches do not become part of the enamel, but are just as hard and lasting.

…and demineralization

In fact, the loss and replacement of minerals in teeth is a natural process which happens daily. Calcium naturally found in saliva should be enough to make small repairs. However, our dietary habits such as high sugar intake, tea and coffee (with sugar) drinking habits, or high intake of acidic foods, can interfere with this natural healing process. These result in weak spots which later become cavities.

In other cases, if there is a calcium deficiency elsewhere inside the body, such as the spine of an osteoporosis sufferer, the calcium from teeth can be pulled to fulfill this need.

The good foods

High-calcium foods
High-calcium foods

These foods are not problem-solvers, but have high potentials to aid in the remineralization process. Why? Various factors. However, what these foods have in common are that they are whole foods.

High calcium foods: dairy products such as cheese, and milk (alkalizing foods which will decrease the acidity in your mouth that causes plaque and tooth decay. As a result, yoghurt which is acidic is less effective), or dark leafy greens like spinach and kale. Apparently, bone broth or fish with soft bones will also suffice (according to a 1920’s study).

Calcium acts as natural fillers.

High phosphorus foods: meat, eggs, fish, and nuts (especially sunflower seeds and brazil nuts *almonds can fall under both calcium and phosphorus category)

Phosphorus seem to act in the same way as calcium.

Vitamin D rich foods: oily fish (i.e. the famous cod-liver oil), meat, dairy products, soy products, and nuts.Why Vitamin D?

They contain the same benefit to bones, as to teeth – encourage growth and repair.

To pescetarians, vegetarians and vegans – There seems to be not much problem for pescetarians in obtaining the required nutrients. In fact, seafood are amongst the top foods for for teeth repair. However, be sure to not overdo seafood, since mercury poisoned fish, or other kind of contamination has become a real threat to seafood industry and consumers in recent years.

Pescetarians can always look to plant-based alternatives!

It is also easier for vegetarians, since dairy products or eggs are one of the ultimate calcium/other growth-related nutrients, etc. powerhouse. The question of whether dairy products should be regularly consumed is still debated.

For vegans, it’s a different situation. Nevertheless, plant products like nuts, soy, beans, and certain veggies are also very rich in substances like calcium and phosphorus. It is simply that meat-eaters need to eat smaller amounts of their food to obtain the optimum condition. For example, to obtain the the daily requirement of phosphorus, vegans must consume at least one cup of portobello mushrooms, a serving of fortified cereal (cereal will be further discussed), and a bit of tofu each day.

Important: be sure to reduce the amount of phytic acid in the legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains as much as possible (for example, through soaking, sprouting, fermenting, boiling, or roasting). After all, phytic is an acid, and can block calcium and phosphorus absorption!

The bad foods

Sugary, starchy and acidy foods
Sugary, starchy and acidy foods

The categories are pretty big, but mostly the foods we all hate to love.

The main ones:

– sugary foods

– starchy foods

– soft drinks

– acidic foods

Why? Sugar and starch feeds the bacteria which produces excessive acid in the mouth, causing tooth decay. Many soft drinks contain phosphoric acid (completely different to phosphorus due to different chemical structures resulting in different properties) which will wear down teeth, and acidic foods does the same.

Summary: other than better managed nutrition, one must also change one’s habit in order to reverse the effects of tooth decay (to an extent). For example, brushing teeth after meals or regularly flossing.

So, to answer the question, damaged teeth has the potential to grow back with proper treatment. There have been many cases of cavities filling up naturally through the above mentioned nutrition and proper dental care. Therefore, (also according to different individuals), high mineral and vitamin, and low sugar diet is very likely to replace fillers. It will just simply take a bit more effort and time than a visit to the dentist’s!

– Izzy

What causes thick or thin peels in citrus fruits?? Navel oranges or lemons

Preface: I have never really took much notice in this matter prior to very recently when I noticed the epidemic of thick-skinned navel oranges at the college dining halls. I often heard grumbles of “Why is the orange peel so thick?” as students dug into their navel oranges. Then, I remembered, I have encountered especially thick skinned lemons back when we had a lemon tree at home. This led me to wonder what causes different peel thicknesses in citrus fruit, and does this say something about the nutritional quality of the fruit?

Citrus fruits

Let me first clarify the obvious: with oranges, there are all sorts of varieties which result in; thin rind oranges that are harder to peel but more suitable for juicing, or thick rind naval oranges that are easier to peel. But usually, the fruits of each varieties e.g. satsuma, mandarin, tangerine, or naval, almost always have identical peel thickness. I will be talking about in this post, the causes of different thickness peel in the same variety citrus fruit.

credit: http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/citrus-thick-peel-398x600.jpg
credit: http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/citrus-thick-peel-398×600.jpg

So what causes this?

Nutrition imbalance

Often, thick rinds in citrus fruits are caused by either too much nitrogen or too little phosphorus. To put simply, too much nitrogen will affect the plant’s ability to absorb phosphorus, and thus causing a phosphorus deficiency (When there is more or less of one of these substances, the other will also be affected). When there is too much nitrogen or too little phosphorus the plant will almost always bear small fruits with thick rinds and very little juice.

Backyard gardeners often make this mistake by having added too much nitrogen-rich fertilizer into the soil.

Effect on nutritional quality

Since thick rinds in citrus fruits are most likely caused by nutritional imbalance in the soil, there is potential that the nutritional profile of the fruit will be affected. Thick-rind, dry fruits can be thought of as defect products from factories. Nevertheless, oranges with slightly thick peels but normal interior should not be wasted as this is not an indicator of severe nutrition deficiency.

In fact, all kinds of fruit varieties, including oranges, will contain different traits and nutritional value i.e. vitamin C and citric acid content. For example, check out this chart on vitamin C content in apple varieties: http://www.naturalhub.com/natural_food_guide_fruit_vitamin_c_apple.htm

So how do we tell which piece of fruit is more nutritious? Contrary to popular beliefs, the sourness of a citrus fruit does not indicate high vitamin C content. In fact, a citrus fruit’s sourness depends on its citric acid level. After all, how could a guava which has no sour taste whatsoever contain almost 4 times as much vitamin C as naval oranges per 100 g? The best way to eat fruit and obtain the optimum nutrition is when it is still fresh (vitamin levels decrease over time after the fruit has been picked, and even more so at room temperature), recently picked, and has been stored well. That is local and naturally grown fruits.

Conclusion: thick peel citrus fruits are simply fruits from a tree grown in unfavorable condition. As long as the flesh taste and look fine, they should still be quite nutritious.

Now, I know the story behind the epidemic of thick rind naval oranges at the dining halls. Perhaps the dining services have changed fruit suppliers, or the changes in season has effected the orange tree’s fecundity. Whatever the problem was: save the oranges!

– Izzy

Can common bad habits like long-term computer use or junk food diet damage your eyesight?

Preface: Lately, my interest have been gearing towards health subjects other than food (I believe this is owing to my decreased food choices, with food and fruits provided to me by the college). Also, I greatly apologize for the lateness in posting. I promise to be more diligent especially during the summer holidays. I myself have dealt first hand with the pain of when one’s favorite blogger no longer regularly updates…

In this post, I shall explore eyesight and bad habits! Bad habits being poor health choices.

DCF 1.0

It is without a doubt that the typical college lifestyle have messed up my health morals. I am no longer obsessive nutrition compulsive. I have a suspicion that the poor health choices – rather than genetics – I have made has affected my eyesight. Hence, I have investigated into this matter…

My hypotheses are that:

  • Poor nutrition (short-term) can lead to poor eyesight.
  • Diet high in sugar and fat (short-term) can lead to poor eyesight.
  • High usage of computer/smartphones can lead to poor eyesight.
  • Lack of sleep can lead to poor eyesight

Nutrition and eyesight:


It goes without saying that ever since the time of our great grandparents there have been beliefs on the relationship of eye-health and food/nutrition. For example, have more carrots for great eyesight, etc. But how much relationship is there really between nutrition and eyesight? And what happens if we abuse our diet?

Food can equate to medicine, and therefore, whatever food we put into our body will affect it. Hence, logistically, unhealthful food will also affect the eyes, an organ in the body. We can look to type-2 diabetes, a diet-related, eye damaging disease as an example.

Diabetes/high blood sugar and eyesight:

Assorted Junk Food

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults, according to webmd.com. And how so? High blood sugar levels directly affect blood flow around the eyes. One, it can cause swelling of the eye lens which causes blurred vision. Second, it can weaken blood vessels and if left untreated can lead to permanent eye damage. Lastly, the worse of all is direct damage to the retina. When damage to the blood vessel becomes most serious, it may lead to complications that causes the retina to snap. This may cause blindness.

This goes to say that high blood sugar which is diet related can have direct damage to eyesight.

When one lives on a junk food diet, obviously other than high blood sugar, high cholesterol would follow.

High cholesterol and eyesight:


When there is abnormally high amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream, this can have adverse effects on your eyesight. Some of these conditions include: retinal vein occlusion. Cholesterol can block blood vessels in your eyes as it can in other parts of your body. Blood supply to your eyes may be cut off or blood vessels may burst. Apparently, retinal vein occlusion usually happen acutely with patients experiencing sudden blurring or partial/total loss of vision. However, in many instances, some vision can be restored with treatment.

Computers and eyesight:


Another part of the equation to bad habit = poor eyesight is incorrect usage of computer/smartphones. This correlation seems obvious doesn’t it? In fact, this association has entered the spotlight more in recent years. But how exactly do computer/phone screens damage your eyes?

Some say the “computer vision syndrome (CVS)” is part of the array of “repetitive stress injuries” common at workplaces, which occurs when one repeats the same motion over and over again, causing stress in certain parts of the body.

When using computers (and even worse, smartphones as letters & images are smaller), one has to constantly strain one’s eyes. Working on computers is different from something like reading books, as the screen is constantly switching which creates screen contrast, varying light value, and also of course, the glaring screen light.

But can this actually damage one’s eyesight? Some sources say overuse of computers will not affect the eyes permanently, however, new researches say otherwise. Some symptoms of minor eye damages caused by computer/smart phone screens include: blurred, double vision, dry or red eyes, eye irritation, headaches, and neck or back pain (I have definitely experienced a couple of these). Other sources suggest that the overuse of these high technology equipments may even lead to conditions like cataract.

Sleep deprivation and the eyes: 


I myself have always often experienced dry and sore eyes when not getting enough sleep – often rubbing eyes that day. This led me to question the possible effects of sleep deprivation on the eyes.

In fact, the eyes like any other organ in the body require sleep to recharge and repair. After all, it has been opened and operated the entire day. The lesser hours it receives to rest and repair, the lesser its capability.

One of the main side effects of sleep deprivation on the eyes is myokymia or eye spasm. Got a recurring eye spasm? It’s most likely your body’s sign to sleep more. The other side effect is dry eyes which can result in itchiness, redness, and sometimes blurred vision.

It’s unclear whether lack of sleep can result in the degeneration of eyesight. However, lack of sleep or decrease time for body repair can cause all sorts of health issues and affect all kinds of organs. It’s quite possible that the eyes will also be affected.

In conclusion, 3 of the hypotheses I listed are all health damaging bad habits (the computer one is not as directly affecting). And damages to our body, would most definitely also affect the eyes (in varying degrees). The first two hypotheses (diet related) are easy to solve – you simply need to practice self-control and determination in eating healthful and whole foods. The second two are trickier. Many people, including college kids (whom I can directly relate to), find using computers or sleeping very little something unavoidable. Nevertheless, solutions are there. For example, to lessen the effects of CVS, you can designate times for break from computer use or sit further away from the screen. And for lack of sleep, it simply depends on one’s determination to be healthy, and vigorous planning to make sure that happens.

– Izzy
P.S. I apologize for the lame side images… It’s the content that’s most important!

I am shaving to cure childhood cancers. Would you do the same?

''St. Baldricks Day''

St. Baldrick’s website link: http://www.stbaldricks.org

My first experience with head shaving for cancer was at high school in New Zealand. A few selected male teachers, and even a female student were having their heads shaved. The funds they raised went towards a cancer foundation. I was very moved by their brave actions (especially the 13 year old girl), and I vowed to do the same one day.

Message (as can be seen on my webpage):

“I’m shaving my head to raise money for childhood cancer research! Did you know that kids’ cancers are different from adult cancers? It’s true. And childhood cancer research is extremely underfunded. So I decided to do something about it by raising money for cures.

Now I need your help! Will you make a donation? Every dollar makes a difference for the thousands of infants, children, teens, and young adults fighting childhood cancers.”

– – – –

I’m sure you yourself is also affected by cancer in some way, whether it would be because of diagnosed family members or friends. I have a couple of family members who has or have had cancer. My grandmother passed away from intestinal cancer before I even had the chance to meet her.

Childhood is one of the happiest moments in our lives, and it is completely unfair that some children cannot experience this in the same way as we have.

– – – –

Since right now, my hair is very long (waist-length), I will also donate my hair to creating wigs for cancer patients.

My personal donate link: https://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/IssariyaManakongtreecheep

– Izzy

P.S. Tell me what you think about this form of ‘head shaving’ fundraisers. Do you think they are effective?

What does your urine color say about you?

Urine can say a lot about you and your health. Back in the days, urine was doctor’s only pathway to understanding what is going on inside a patient’s body. It still is an important part of medical diagnosis, getting your urine tested is still part of the normal health check.

Therefore, I believe the color of your urine is not something to be ignored. Actually, the color is not the only important indicator but the odor as well.. But I will not go deep into that for fear of scaring off potential readers.

But first, let me tell you a bit of background on how I came to be interested in the topic of urine and health. During the final exams last semester I broke my health rules and fell into a cycle of late night studying – and inseparable from this is late night snacking. During those times, I ate large amounts of sweets. Then, I started to notice a change; in my urine.

It was very yellow despite the fact that I drank the same amount of water. I immediately looked to my dietary habits as the cause. I noticed a pattern of dark-colored urine that usually follows large consumptions of sweets. Although I still haven’t the precise answer to this, through my research, I found that the cause of the dark urine could be excess vitamins being expelled from the body, or if it smells sweet then it is excess glucose being expelled by the liver. Other than food reasons, the cause of dark yellow urine would be liver diseases, etc., which I really hope not…

I believe my body was trying to send me warning messages through urine.

So, here are the types of urine color and their messages on how you should be changing your bad habits!

(I liked the format of this info graphic, but the information is a bit shallow. And sometimes even comical… Isn’t this supposed to be an official health website?? So, I have added some additional information in the captions).

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 12.53.50 PM
Colorless/white urine is normally accompanied with cloudiness. And cloudiness is bad sign of health implications such as urinary tract infections.
Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 12.54.25 PM
Amber or honey: Could also mean you are taking an excess of caffeine or salt. Then other more serious health issues e.g. hematuria; decreased urine production (oliguria or anuria); metabolic problem; pituitary problem (ADH, or antidiuretic hormone).
Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 12.54.38 PM
Orange: Can be a result of “holding your bladder” for too long OR over-consumption of orange foods (carrots, squash, or food dyes). The drug Pyridium (phenazopyridine) or liver or pituitary problem (ADH, or antidiuretic hormone).

Bright colored urine like blue/green/pink: Usually associated with consumption of food dyes, foods like asparagus (green, with smelly odor), or excess vitamins.

Note: About the urine color changes due to high-pigment foods like pink/orange. I NEVER had this problem even though in the past I consumed HUGE amounts of orange-colored foods like oranges, sweet potatoes, or carrots – to the point where my palms turned orange. And I also used to be raspberries obsessed where I would eat nearly 1 kg worth of frozen raspberries or blueberries with every meal. Yet, at that time, my urine color was always straw colored as I also drank large amounts of water.

Therefore, I wonder how much of those pigmented foods must be consumed to cause visible changes in urine color?

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 12.54.51 PM

source: http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2013/10/what-the-color-of-your-urine-says-about-you-infographic/

In conclusion, I believe your body is constantly communicating with you with regards to the state of your health. For example, through changes in urine, skin, hair, etc. Therefore, it is not something to be ignored. Sometimes we are too busy with our lives to notice these messages. But making small changes earlier on is always preferable than sitting in the doctor’s office receiving bad news with a darkened and guilty face.

So, let’s make small health changes and have straw-colored urine together!

– Izzy

P.S. Please share your opinions on this health matter OR correct any mistakes I may have made in the comments section!

How nutritious and calorific is your favorite American food?

Many foreigners don’t like American food. They stereotype and make presumptions that American food is all greasy, salty, boring, and unhealthy. I was no exception.
However, after having lived in the US for several months and experienced the food tastes here myself. I must say, they taste not bad at all!
Being food-conscious, I had researched prior to coming that many of the foods here i.e. ready-made, will taste great and addictive due to their highly engineered nature. I told myself that since I am so health-wise, I could use my psychology to overcome this chemical seduction. Wrong!
Yep, I made a total fail! I wouldn’t say I gained the freshman fifteen but I was pretty close.. But, I am on the road for a brighter future with the drastic improvements in my diet.
This post act as a personal guide for making better “American food choices”. I have analyzed the most dangerous components of a few favourite American foods – the calories and nutrition content.
First, let’s start with breakfast
Sesame bagel
One plain bagel (98 g)
Calories: 245
Total Fat 1.5 g  2% DV
Cholesterol 0 mg  0%
Sodium 430 mg  17%
Potassium 162 mg  4%
Total Carbohydrate 48 g  16%
Dietary fiber 4 g  16%
Sugar 6 g
Protein 10 g  20%
Calcium  2%
Iron  15 %
Vitamin B-6  5%
Magnesium  12%
And trust me, even if you choose the whole wheat ones or fruit ones, it wouldn’t add a lot to the nutrients i.e. vitamins/minerals either.
This is because there is only so many additional ingredients they can put in to achieve ‘the bagel’ – yeast-leavened, soft interior, chewy outer shell bread. Otherwise, it would be something else.
Bagel is basically a ball of (refined white flour) dough, the plain ones, even much so. When you compare this with another popular breakfast food, oatmeal, you see the difference in nutritional quality. For example, oatmeal = less than 2/3 of the calories in one serving (1 cup, cooked), contains 20% vitamin A, 16% more calcium, 30% more vitamin B-6, 62% more iron, etc. Oatmeal is cheap too, so why not opt for this?
Everything bagel with cream cheese
Addition: Adding one tbsp of peanut butter = 94 more calories, a bit more fiber, protein, vitamin B-6, and magnesium.
Adding one tbsp of cream cheese = 49 more calories, some fat, and not much else.
After all, these are condiments so they are not made to be nutrient-rich.
On to lunch:
Chicken tenders w/ fries
Typical meal of chicken tenders w/ fries
One serving of chicken tenders without fries
Calories: 622 which is already 33% of a typical daily value intake! And this is only one component of lunch.
Total Fat 40.7 g
Cholesterol 101.8 mg  34%
Sodium 1170.9 mg  49%
Total Carbohydrate 40.7 g
Dietary fiber 2.5 g  10%
Sugar 2.5 g
Protein 30.5 g
Vitamin C  5%
Iron  10 %
I have no idea where the Vitamin C could come from? Maybe plant components of the batter? Because last time I checked, chicken isn’t vegetable..
I was surprised that chicken tenders contained more carbohydrate than protein! But when you look at the amount of batter coated around the chicken, you can see why.
Addition: French fries, who doesn’t have chicken tenders without fries? 7 ounces = 314 more calories, 10.6 g more fat, 19% of DV fiber. Sound a bit more wholesome? This would total to 936 calories or nearly 47% DV of calories. And this minus any other addition like drinks or fruits/dessert.
Speaking of dessert, this gets me to move onto the next set of foods..
Thin and crispy chocolate chip cookie
Thin and crispy chocolate chip cookie
Aren’t we all obsessed with chocolate chip cookies? The epitome of American comfort food. It’s difficult to have more than once piece, but are they worth it?
One chocolate chip cookie (about the size of your palm, without fingers)
Calories: 257
Total fat 13 g
Cholesterol 20.5 mg  7%
Sodium 87.5 mg  4%
Total carbohydrate 33.8 g
Dietary fiber 0.8 g  3%
Sugar 20.9 g
Protein 2.5 g
Calcium  1%
Iron  7%
Who would have thought such a light dessert can have so many calories? Nearly 300 or 15% of your DV. Many people would probably have at least two pieces which would equate to almost 30% of your DV.
But it’s not just the calories to be aware of, it’s the nutritional content. Each cookie has no vitamins nor minerals what so ever, incredibly small amount of protein, and loaded with fat which in large amounts is bad for your health or skin. Cookies are basically empty sugars (flour and sugar) and fat (tip: a way to judge a food product’s fat content is by examining the “calories from fat”. For this particular chocolate chip cookie it is 118 calories. In other words, nearly half of this cookie is fat/butter/shortening).
When I have raspberry oat bars or white chocolate, walnuts, and cranberries cookies I always convince myself that at least I am eating whole grains and fiber.. But as I mentioned with the bagel, these variations still contain a huge amount of the original’s ingredients which makes them look and feel like what they are. And the key ingredients which makes cookies cookies are fat and sugar.
In conclusion, the ‘unhealthy’ labelled food you eat, are exactly what they have been classified as: unhealthy. Just think about the methods in cooking them, for example, chicken nugget or tenders. Anything coming out of the frier or coated in batter can never be healthy. And think back over how you make cookies and the ingredients that goes in them: sugar, flour, butter, oil, etc. You wouldn’t imagine having flour mixed with oil for lunch, would you?
So, perhaps it’s time to reach for healthier alternatives to these old favorites? I know I will be doing that.
– Izzy

Huahin Beach part 2 – “Jim-Daeng” restaurant

We travelled about 40 minutes from Samroiyod National Park/community to our lunch location. This is the Thai dedication to food. In fact, often times Thai people would devote an entire trip (that could take more than one hour) to delicious food hunting. For example: it’s a weekday, our friend had just bought a new fridge and we want to celebrate, so let’s drive one hour and a half out of the city to have some delicious seafood! We will be back by the time the kids come home.

Anyway, let’s continue onto Huahin trip (Part 2)!

This restaurant called “Jim-Daeng” (which is a pretty interesting name to say the least… I’m not going to include the translation for fear of flagging) rests just across from a quiet beach. Literally, on the way there we passed about 300 small resorts all with open pools (some, horizon pools; fancy that), and pink/orange people staring back at us. Exaggeration. I would say 3-4 small private resorts.

As for the restaurant; how was the taste? I would say that depends on the dish; some were incredibly tasty, some were just average.

For example, this fried squid here was pretty dang dry on top of being tasteless. Since I’m also not a squid fan, eating this was no more different than eating rubber (with delicious spicy sauce)

Fried squid with spicy and sweet sauce
Fried squid with spicy and sweet sauce

Then there was this super delicious dish which I had forgotten the name of!

Shrimp with Gratin vegetables and coconut milk sauce
Shrimp with Gra-teen vegetable and coconut milk sauce

At least I know what it contains: boiled shrimp, local Thai vegetable called *“Gra-teen” (which you can now find in frozen form in Asian supermarkets! You must try it out!), coconut sauce, and bathed in deep fried shallots.

Before I became health conscious I basically used to eat deep-fried shallots for snacks. They’re that delicious (deep-fried shallots can be bought in Asian supermarkets in packets/bottles). This is a common element in Thai cuisine, where they are often used as garnish on noodles dishes etc. (which I will write about in my next post!)

Anyway, the dish was just a perfect combination of nutty/fatty taste of lightly sweetened coconut milk sauce and crunchy/savory-ness of the deep-fried shallots; on top of the crunchy vegetables and fresh shrimp. How you eat it is: the vegetable, shrimp, and shallots together; topped off with spicy seafood sauce to cut down any fishy smell of the shrimp, and fattiness of the coconut sauce. This along with rice.

I would say this dish is relatively healthful, depending on how much coconut sauce or fried shallots you take with each serving. After all, the ingredients were all natural.

Sadly, since I did not have the **usual photographic freedom, two images is what is left from this restaurant outing. Nevertheless, I can give you a quick breakdown of the what to order at the restaurant – this is a seafood restaurant (duh, right across from the beach. You can literally jump into the ocean right after a meal) and so I would recommend to order their shrimp, fish, squid (if you must), and crab. The shrimp with vermicelli in clay pot was pretty good, so were the other typical Thai dishes like omelette or spicy soups. You can’t go very wrong. I would recommend asking the waiter for their most popular dishes.

The environment was nice, spacious, clean, (but it did have a bit of a canteen feel to it..) and had lots of ceiling fans (imagine tissues blowing everywhere), which is in fact, very important for the summer!

Since I don’t have anymore food photos from this restaurant, here is a bonus image of crispy, sweet, delicious banana roti!

Fried roti - banana filling with condensed milk and sugar topping
Fried roti – banana filling with condensed milk and sugar topping

Side notes: *”Gra-teen” or “Yod gra-teen” is a local Thai vegetable that is cheap and can be found in almost all parts of the country. It is popular mostly as a health food with digestive benefits. The english name is “Lead tree”, which sounds really scary and inedible (also a part of the acacia tree family. The stuff that giraffes eat), and this is partially true where only the young shoots of the lead tree can be cooked and eaten.

**You readers may have noticed a difference in my posts format where food images have decreased significantly. This is because I did not intend to blog during this Thailand trip, and so did not take any pictures. These pictures are all borrowed. Speaking of which, I should probably credit the photographer aka my brother’s girlfriend.


Please stay in tuned 🙂

– Izzy

Huahin Beach part 1 – Samroiyod National Park (beauty & mystique) and delicious seafood!

Balcony view from the condominium

We went to Huahin Beach the day after Christmas. It was perfect timing because at that time most people had already gone back to work; Huahin was relatively quiet. And in terms of weather? Perfect. Even during the hottest time of the day (midday), I was still able to go swimming in an open pool. Alright, I did get a tan after 30 minutes, but the sun didn’t feel unbearable.

Maybe it is true that Thai winter is getting colder every year.. #Global warming…

So, what is on Thai people’s checklist when they come to Huahin?

1. Eat

2. Shop (in the open markets)

3. Beach

(priority listing)

However, since my brother’s special someone was also on the trip (her first visit to Thailand), a food binge-filled vacation  was out of the question, and touristy-activities were in place

Still, we managed to realize the first item on our list even before we got to Huahin.

We devoured our way to the beach town (which is about 2 hrs and 30 mins away from Bangkok). First, we made a breakfast stop at a popular chain coffee shop called “Black Canyon Coffee” which caters to both Western and Thai food lovers.

Then, as we made our way to the condominium, we happened to pass by a famous “mango and sticky rice” shop, which was sandwiched between the Huahin Sofitel hotel (now taken over by Centara, duh) and a row of shady bars.

Buying two kilograms of sticky rice and two mangoes was an immediate must.

Mango & sticky rice
Mango & sticky rice

This is the kind of mango you get, through the hands of highly experienced mango carvers aka homemade.

This looks better:

Pa Jieu - mango & sticky rice
Pa Jieu – mango & sticky rice

credit: http://www.foodspotting.com/

Undoubtedly delicious. This shop is most known for its aromatic and soft sticky rice; so no carb-skipping on this one.

More delicious food to come. We had our late afternoon lunch at a famous seafood restaurant called Jee Khiao or “Aunt Green”. Don’t even ask.

They are known for their fresh crab and crab meat fried rice (unfortunately not pictured).

Steamed crab
Steamed crab pincher dipped in signature Thai spicy seafood sauce
A typical photograph of someone who thinks they are superior to the animal they are eating
Deep fried fish in sweet & spicy sauce
Deep fried fish in sweet & spicy sauce

Verdict: the crab was undoubtedly fresh (they had live crabs in large rectangular tanks in their kitchen), and the seafood sauce was at its usual delicious calibre – sweet, spicy, and aromatic.

The fried rice with crab meat was pretty incredible. The crab meat chunks were bigger than an inch. I also liked how the vegetables and eggs were not microscopic size. Whenever my grandaunt visits Huahin, and unavoidably, the restaurant, she buys kilos of their signature fried rice back to Bangkok . Obviously, you don’t need to do the same to appreciate this dish. It is definitely worth ordering.

Other than this, we had Thai shrimp paste plate with fresh vegetables (‘Thai antipasto’) which was typically good, stir-fried bitter bean (sa-tor) with shrimp & pork mince in spicy paste (I have actually quoted this dish before in my other Huahin post), which was very delicious. We also ordered a superb dish of stir-fried local vegetables (the best vegetables you will have at a restaurant would be local), steamed crab legs (usually eaten with soybean sauce. For some reason, my favorite dish when I was little. The morbidly interactive nature of the dish?), and the deep fried fish in sweet & spicy sauce was definitely the star at the table aside from the crab. Actually, come to think of it, the name might have been deep fried fish in spicy basil leaves sauce. Who knows? It’s been more than a month.

The verdict? the fish was deep fried all right, bathing in all its oily glory. Although, the fact that the restaurant exclusively uses pork lard in their cooking made me feel less guilty. The garlic, chili and basil leaves infusion of the sauce cuts down the oily taste, making the dish an overall 4 stars.

Side-note (my impression on the restaurant’s environment): One, the cook created entirely new vegetarian menu (even using vegetable oil which they normally do not use) for my mum. They were vegetarian fried rice (with huge chunks of mushrooms you can see!) and stir-fried vegetables (with carrots, Shanghai vegetables, broccoli, etc.) that wasn’t even on their menu. And I wondered if they had all those vegetables in stock why not put them on the menu… Anyway, vegetarian friendly!

Two, foreigners will definitely find this an intriguing experience. The waiters/waitresses (whatever they prefer) of this restaurant were almost exclusively transgendered, save for one random middle school aged kid. They were very flamboyant, some with full make-up on. Why at this restaurant? I have no clue. However, I know for a fact that the service industry is one of the few options Thai gay men have for mainstream job. Anyway, that made for an interesting dining atmosphere.

Later that evening, we dragged our well-fed stomachs to the new overpriced/hip tourist attraction that is the “Cicada market”. They open from 5 pm-12 am in the morning, selling all kinds of merchandise from home decorations, to handbags, keychains, and artworks, all in the one-of-a-kind hipster style that modern Thais sought after.

They also have an overpriced food court selling restaurant-quality food (some) at restaurant-price, but at a non-restaurant open sitting area setting. This was where finding seats become intense competition. For those with lower budgets, I recommend the food stalls located in a market just outside the Cicada market area which sells mostly similar food, save for fried insects. For less likelihood of getting diarrhea, opt for the former.

Shoreline walking distance from Cicada market
Shoreline with a stone platform which leads to the sea
Another view of the beach.

Luckily, there was an open beach near the market. Because in Thailand there are no strict laws surrounding beach privatization, many shorelines have become private/resort properties.

The next day, we were incredibly productive and managed to squeeze in a tourist-style expedition (certainly worth the 40 minutes drive from inner city Huahin, which I will elaborate):

We made our way to a little community called “Samroiyod”, located in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan. This is not just a normal community however; it houses one of Thailand’s national treasures.

First, we arrived at the entrance of the Samroiyod National Park, which was a beach and a cliff face (incredibly picturesque surrounding) with lots of souvenir shops and small local restaurants. Then, we were led on a mildly grueling trek over a mountain, by a tiny eleven year old girl guide (local student, said the official) who was wearing a pair of plastic crocs.

In the middle of the trek (around 20 minutes in total)
At the landing on the other side
At the landing on the other side

There is a larger beach on the other side of the mountain.

Our journey to the “national treasure” has not ended! Another (even steeper) hill later, we came to a huge limestone cave opening.

Limestone patterns
Going down into the cave

We literally had to go down like this to enter the cave. Just kidding there were stairs.

Midway into the cave

Already in the cave:

The Bridge of Death. Dun, dun, dun! It is only named so because wild hogs (when there were more of them) were known to fall down to their deaths here.
Huge gaping hole
Huge gaping hole letting in light, and the Royal Pavilion

All the meanwhile our little tour guide was telling me all the stories behind the seventeen scenic spots within the cave; my brother, his friend, and girlfriend were nowhere to be seen. I got a private tour! On the other hand, we looked a bit like kids playing around in the cave: she would run over to one scenic spot, then I would follow her and listen closely to her descriptions. At one point she said, “Since I am a child, I am prone to to touching objects along the paths” Are you really?

The most impressive scenic spot, and profound discovery to me was the growing stalagmite. As nutrient rich water drips down from above onto the cave floor, little stalagmite grows. They grow into large stalagmite pillars. You could even see the different stages of stalagmite growth through observing a different damp regions of the cave.

Initially, the little girl freaked me out a little when she began her explanation of the stalagmites with, “do you see the little bumps in the ground? They are actually alive”. Then I read the English description.

Overall, the cave was full of mysterious discoveries and spiritual aura. It is definitely, definitely worth a visit if you happen to travel to that region of Thailand. And please support this cute community! How much money can they make out of selling fried chicken and cheap entrance tickets, really?

Lizard (male, according to the little girl)

I love how you immediately strike a beach once outside the cave.

Aspiring male model

Our laziness gave in, and instead of going back the same way (up the mountain), we came to the general consensus of catching a local fisherman’s boat. Even despite the turbulent sea, we were rooting for an available boatman who would risk his life for the comfort of a couple of lazy city people/tourists.

The little tour guide girl assured me earlier that she is afraid of taking boats, but came with us anyway (such dedication to a job). By the way, I thought it was super cute when we were all resting from the after effects of cave climbing, at the National Park’s restaurant, and the little girl guide said to me before she departing briefly, “Wait one second, I need to go buy waffles.” Effects of globalization/Westernization can be felt.

Anyway, a traumatizing boat ride later (everyone was enjoying it except for myself, the little girl (who later claimed it was exciting), my brother’s friend who was worried his expensive import jeans would get wet (don’t worry, we definitely got wet); we arrived at our starting point on the other side of the mountain.

Despite a local auntie’s constant demand for us to buy her fried chicken and eat at the national park, we managed to evade that and set off to our next delicious food destination.

To be continued….


Sprouting barley – why you should and the health benefits (includes how-to guide)

Sprouted barley (after about six hours of soaking)

Yesterday, I had sprouted barley and thought I would share an image of it for the sake of those who would like to know what sprouted barley looked like: notice the little sprouts coming out there?

So why is sprouted barley more nutritious than un-sprouted barley? In fact, not only barley is more healthy fermented and sprouted, a whole heap of other grain-type foods, legumes, beans, etc. can also be made more nutritious through this method.

As I have touched on in the “Phytic Acid” section of my blog, it is a fact that grains, legumes, etc. type foods contain a nutrients inhibitor substance called “phytic acid” which can prevent our bodies’ absorption of important minerals i.e. calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Obviously, this is a terrible thing.

Therefore, since the old ages, our older generations has developed methods for reducing/eliminating phytic acid levels in these very important staple foods of ours through the forms of: fermentation, lacto-fermentation, sprouting, soaking, boiling for a long period of time, etc.

Our first primal ancestor who had created this method is a psychic/genius because it did work! For example, with barley, a research have shown that sprouting them can result in phytic acid degradation of 58%! (source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry) The same trend of results goes with other grains and legumes, etc. but of course, as with the complicated world of nature and organisms, different methods just has to have varying effects on different types of these plants: this makes phytic acid treatment extremely complicated (to the point I don’t even want to get into it).

Luckily, there is a rule of thumb to reducing/eliminating phytic acid levels in these types of foods which is:

Soak, ferment or sprout them for as long as you can (the longer, the more effects you are afflicting). And if possible, use a combination of all the treatment methods. AND use an acidic agent while soaking (as it neutralize the anti-nutients released)

Of course, being the lazy individual that I am, I did not follow the rule of thumb. And I have good back-up reasons for my apparent procrastination:

1. I have an unrelenting fear that my grains/legumes will go bad during the soaking/sprouting process. This has happened with a batch of quinoa during my period of sprouting amateurism. I was very depressed.

2. I’m still not brave enough to prepare food with the fermentation process as I fear of bacterial poisoning those around me and myself. The only fermentation I dare to do is the yeast-rising during bread making process (does that even count?) Imagine the patheticness associated with self-stomach poisoning oneself…

In conclusion, after six hours of soaking + sprouting the barley, I was rewarded with a batch of delicious, phytic acid reduced, fibre-rich (therefore can help moderate blood-sugar levels… basically the only known barley benefits to me prior to googling…), manganese, selenium, more readily available phosphorus and vitamin B1 along with possibly increased contents of these nutrients as shown in several scientific researches on various grains (source: International Journal of Food Sciences & Nutrition).

Basic Barley Sprouting steps:

1. Take out the amount of barley you would like to sprout. Place this in a container i.e. glass bowl, before washing the grains off any dust.

2. Soak the barley in acidified water about three times the height in which the grains reaches up to in the bowl. Soak for at least six hours or until the barley is soft and looks alive *acidic agent i.e. vinegar – one tablespoon to a cup of water.

3. Drain out the water, wash the softened barley with a large sift, then place back into the bowl that is now filled with a bit of water, just so the barley is dampened. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place until the grains have sprouted enough to your liking.


P.S. If you live in a cold place and will take longer than six hours to sprout your grains, I recommend changing water and lightly washing the grains at every six hours past point.

And by the way, I would like to point out that Thailand/any tropical climate country is such a wonderous heaven for sprouters. Whereas in New Zealand, it takes me more than one day to sprout grains i.e. quinoa, it only takes a fraction of that amount of time in sprouting barley over here. I could have grown barley seedlings by the end of the day if I wanted to but unfortunately, I hadn’t the time nor patience.

Bonus image:

Barley, millet, quinoa and amaranth in rice cooker.

My sign from god: as embodied through the form of symbolic structures created by mixed grains (barley, quinoa, millet and amaranth) in the rice cooker.

Just kidding, they are just holes created as the rice cooker boils, resulting in bubbles surging up in some areas.

– Izzy

Maojia 毛家 (Mao’s House) restaurant – what would Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Cultural Evolution eat?

At the entrance hall of Maojia restaurant
At the entrance hall of Maojia restaurant

I apologize for the accidental blurry, romantic lighting on my photo here.

Who would have expected a ‘Mao Zedong’ themed restaurant operating in a small city in Shandong province, Jinan? The restaurant origin is not one but a typical: a businessman simply decided to sell-off the Mao craze which had run thick since the Cultural Revolution in the late 60’s to the late 80’s. Imagine the divinity associated with having the pleasure of dining the food of the great Chairman Mao?

Although the charm is still there, the restaurant’s business has become noticeably quieter. Nevertheless, the food is still pretty tasty, as pretty much all Chinese food are.

We were at Maojia or “Mao’s House” for dinner. We managed to secure a smoke-free seating, where our table were sandwiched between two chain-puffing tables. The restaurant was not the grandest – actually smaller than the No. 56 restaurant (which I was reviewing in my previous post http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/no-56-restaurant-%e9%ab%98%e7%ac%ac%e8%a1%9756%e5%8f%b7-cantonese-style-cuisine-final-review-with-bbq-pork-and-famous-hunan-chillies-fish-head/) with an entrance that could substitute for a 4 stars Chinese hotel lobby, and a dining area that had reminded me of an old-time Chinese Gangster’s lounge (so did the people who came to dine).

The menu were of mostly Hunan dishes (Mao Zedong’s birthplace), while also featuring some of Shandong’s own i.e. sea cucumber in gravy 海参 (Shandong is known for seafood), caramelized sticky sweet potato 拔丝地瓜 (which is one of the most delicious thing ever!!), etc.

Alledgedly, most of the Hunan dishes listed were what Mao Zedong would prefer to eat for his meals. The most famous one of which included:

Hong shao rou or twice cooked pork.

Twice cooked pork 红烧肉 is a dish lots of Asian people drool over, wolf down, then worship the remnance. It basically uses chunks (or slices, in Thailand and Japan) of pork at its fattiest, and with the skin on, which are then stewed, or boiled in dark-coloured and seasoned soup until the skin is soft enough to bite into.

Most of the time though, in China, the skin is still unable to be chewed into because it is so elastic and tough. This is either because they had used older/wilder pigs, or didn’t cook the pork long enough. I hope for the former.

In China, this sort of dish which uses super fat cuts of pork is also called Fei rou 肥肉 “fatty meat” or Ba zi rou 把子肉. In Thailand they are named “Three-layered pork” which is exactly what they are: The top part is the skin which is rich in collagen the same way as this protein is present in other animal skin such as fish skin, chicken skin, or fish belly i.e. salmon belly (grilled – famous Japanese specialty). And the rich amount of collagen in twice-cooked pork is what makes it a dish for ladies wanting softer-looking skin, as it helps increase those amount of skin-firming proteins. The next layer of twice-cooked pork is the most dangerous – the pure, solid fat (also what makes Asians go gaga for it due to the melt-in-mouth texture it creates), then the last layer is the meat.

Hong shao rou is more glamourous version of twice-cooked pork 把子肉 as it doesn’t uses the typical Chinese five-spice combination most used in cooking twice-cooked pork, or hog trotter, but features other ingredients which makes the stewed sauce reddish in colour. And this I have no idea how to make.

However, I know the ingredients which goes in the most typical twice-cooked pork:

1. Chinese Five spices – Cinnamon, Star Anise, Coriander seed, Anise seed and cloves.

2. Other seasonings i.e. soy sauce, brown sugar and salt.

All you need to do is combine all the ingredients together with the pork and hot water and boil/simmer until the pork looks “twice-cooked”.

The taste: It was pretty averagely delicious. The flavouring was on the salty side with a tinge of sweetness in the sauce, the pork was well-cooked and not too soft or hard. There were also some string beans put at the bottom which tasted like the sauce it was cooked in (duh) (String beans are one of the sides often eaten with twice-cooked pork).

Teppanyaki mushroom and braised pumpkin.

I have seen a rise in Japanese cuisine in Chinese culture, although sushi is still not very widespread (About seven years ago, a language student in her 20’s whom I had known through a language school had never eaten a sushi before in her life), elements of Japanese food is quite welcomed by the Chinese population i.e. Japanese tofu (mixed with eggs) and teppanyaki-style cooking.

The teppanyaki mushroom here was pretty delicious! It had consisted of: chopped garlic, chili, juicy and flavorful shiitake mushrroms, possibly Japanese shoyu and lots of oil. The oil was too much for my liking but nothing can diminish the deliciousness of crispy browned garlic, yum.

Then I had made a somewhat fail order in terms of taste with this super bland dish:

braised pumpkin

The name braised pumpkin sounded very tasty and healthy at the same time, but in fact, the dish was simply unseasoned steamed pumpkin covered in healthy little nibbles and a strange tasteless glaze. It was healthful alright.

The dish had consisted of: slices of pumpkins, steamed then pressed together into a bowl, before undergoing another moment of steaming to create the above form. Inside and around the pumpkin dome includes red dates and Bai He 百合 or Lily bulbs, as mentioned in the previous post, is a popular Chinese herb known as a nutritious “cooling” food which can help reduce coughs and other minor discomforts.

I was clearly unimpressed on my first encounter with this dish since A. It was over-price for taste and ingredients i.e. basically being half a steamed pumpkin, B. It was completely tasteless apart for the very, very faint sign of sweetness.

But then, I had discovered this is a common Chinese dish that can be made delicious, and is very simple to prepare. On the street, this dish is known as Honey Pumpkin 蒸蜂蜜南瓜 or syrup pumpkin 糖水南瓜 and although its main flavour is sweet, the dish is often eaten with rice as a side dish.

(This is a part to my slow recognition of the Chinese’ interesting habit of having dessert along with their main meal i.e. seeing people having deep fried red bean-filled sesame balls with savory breakfast, or other sweet side dishes like chopped tomatoes coated with sugar, birthday cake with long-life noodles…)

Honey pumpkin at my canteen

The food at my canteen is never consistent in flavors, at other times the chef has struck gold with their mad stir-frying skills, at other times it seems they had forgotten to put salt in, or splashed in a tablespoon too much of vinegar or chillies.

As a result, my ‘Honey pumpkin’ can sometime be sickeningly sweet or just perfectly flavoured. Pumpkin in itself already has a fair amount of natural sugars, possessing a mildly sweet flavor, additions of sugar or honey should be minimal. This side dish has no surprising flavors, but is delicious in itself, making this a good recipe to make for kids (to get them to eat more veggies), especially since some variations also include raisins (which kids seems to like)

I will put up a recipe post for Honey pumpkin next, but here are some basic ingredients for ‘Chinese University Canteen Honey Pumpkin’:

Pumpkin (chopped into bite sized pieces), raisins (in place of red dates which are more expensive) and honey or sugar.

The method is simple: put everything together then steam until the pumpkin is well cooked.

And now onto the other menu on Mao’s favourites list:

Mao's favourite tofu dish.
Mao’s favourite tofu dish.

Steamed spicy tofu 蒸豆腐. I must say, Mao’s got pretty good taste for tofu. This dish is made using soft tofu which is then carefully sliced and placed in a dish for steaming. The tofu is then poured on top with a sauce mix of: soysauce, vinegar, chili oil, soybean oil, possibly salt, and topped off with crushed and minced mixture of pickled green chilli and cabbage, fresh chilli, chopped spring onion and then poured on top with black bean sauce and sesame oil.

It had tasted very amazing! It was simply a perfect combination of salty, sour and spicy to a Thai person’s satisfactory standard.

In conclusion, this restaurant had delicious dishes, and it was very interesting to try the food Mao Zedong himself had enjoyed (apparently he especially loved eating the twice-cooked pork). We didn’t get to try the famous Hunan fish head which is a shame, but I can’t imagine it to be such a great loss since the overall cooking was sort of ‘averagely-Chinese-tasty’. The dishes didn’t struck me as being especially delicious, so in the end, I would give this old-charm restaurant a three and half stars.




No. 56 Restaurant 高第街56号 – Cantonese-style cuisine Final Review with BBQ pork and famous Hunan chillies fish head

I have collated pictures from the No. 56 Restaurant which I possess, and have decided to do a final review on the menus on offer at this restaurant.

My last review post on this restaurant was not completely optimistic, with all the criticisms on the oiliness of their deep-fried menus: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/no-56-restaurant-%e9%ab%98%e7%ac%ac%e8%a1%9756%e5%8f%b7-cantonesehong-kong-style-cuisine-in-shandong-northern-chinese-province/ When in fact, Chinese food is not all about using tons of oil, another quintessential in Chinese cuisine is the utilization of abundance of multicoloured vegetables in dishes.

There are a number of dishes in Chinese cuisine where meat is actually not the main star! This is uncommon in many cuisines around the world.

These pictures were from the second time my dad and I went to the No. 56 Restaurant:

From the left: lotus roots, gingko nuts and sugar snap peas stir-fry, mushroom claypot, and Cantonese-style BBQ pork.
Mushroom claypot

The taste: the mushroom had a rubbery texture (in a good way) which was very similar to what you get with orengi mushrooms. The entwined flavours of garlic slices and oyster sauce, with perhaps a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce was just at the perfect amount. However, the lack of variety in mushroom types made the dish slightly boring, although they did put in a few pieces of shiitake, so they can call it a ‘mushroom medley’.

The awesome thing about Chinese restaurants in China is the fact that their vegetable dishes would always come served filled to the brim with veggies. I don’t know what had started this ‘Large servings Revolution’ with Chinese restaurants, but this trend definitely goes well with vegetables-lovers. All the veggies you can eat! I was in heaven!

(Thai restaurants seem to have not gotten the memo. The serving sizes becomes smaller and smaller by years.)

As for the other types of dishes? You will have to wait and see!

Cantonese-style BBQ Pork

My dad had ordered this dish, all excited about trying a famous Hong kong specialty – Honey roasted BBQ pork (who wouldn’t want to get a taste of some Hong-kong flavours? Regardless in what location), only to be met with disappointment… The pork was more than 50% fat even though traditionally, tenderloins are used in making BBQ pork, and they are supposed to be the relatively lean cut of the pig. And the texture was simply strange, almost like Chinese ham, which is a sweeter but more horrifying version of the American SPAM, the taste was the worse – all fat with tinges of sickening sweetness.

Lotus roots, sugar snap peas, cashew nuts, black fungus mushrooms, gingko nuts, and the little white petals which are part of lily bulbs.

This vegetable stir-fry was sure, slightly over-oiled, but it was still a very delicious and healthy combination: Lotus roots, with its abundance of vital minerals, gingko nuts for memory, lily bulbs 百合 which are good for… (I’ll get back to you on this one. It’s one of the popular healthfoods for Chinese people), green sugar-snap peas for sweet flavors, mushrooms, and some iron-filled cashew nuts.

Some of the ingredients in this stir-fry are actually what Chinese people use in making their healthy ‘dessert soup’. Similar to the ones I have talked about in this post:  http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/chinatown-yaowarat-bangkok-style/

And onto the lily bulbs. They are basically located within the most inner layer of the lily flower. In Chinese medicine, they are considered a beneficial herb, being rich in vitamins and minerals, it also has a “cooling” effect (which to those unfamiliar with Chinese/Asian medicine… It’s gonna be a long and complicated talk…). This herb is nutritious and has the quality of producing a feeling of calmness (helping you sleep) and relieving mild coughs.

And it tastes great! It is filled with protein and starch – kind of like chestnuts, but have a nutty flavour to it.

On a different occasion, we made another visit to this restaurant:

Hunan style chillies fish head

Different restaurants have variations on this fish head dish (I myself, am yet to try the authentic version in Hunan), but all would consist of the main components of: huge river fish head split into two sides, mounds of chillies piled on top.

I have already mentioned Sichuan’s obsession with pouring scoops of chillies on their food in my last review on this restaurant, but now we are also encountering a similar chilli action with Hunan dishes, as shown here. The main difference between the cuisines of these two spicy-eaters’ regions, is the fact that Sichuan people prefer to numb their entire mouth with peppercorns while eating meals, whereas Hunan people tend to take it easy on the “麻” or numbing element in Chinese cooking.

On yet another occasion, the same fish head dish was ordered, but at a different restaurant, and it had actually tasted better. As for the Hunan fish-head pictured here, I must say everytime I had it, the fish head would be just a tad bit too fishy for my liking (I’ve had this dish about three times).


It must the differences between fish head sources for those the two restaurants. The garlic and chillies were of little use in covering up the fishy taste. Nevertheless, it was still fish head with its goopey and jelly-like wonderfulness. The chillies were surprisingly not spicy at all (maybe only for a Thai person?) and went well with fermented black beans, which were then all eaten alongside meaty parts of the fish head. They also put a whole lot of thin vermicelli at the bottom which by the time we get to them, had soaked up all the goodness of the spicy soup and fish flavours.

Roasted duck

We also ordered a roasted duck. And sorry for the not-so appetizing image. And now you understand that the meat-eaters in China are really dedicated to the cause. Not even graphical dead animal-moulded images can deter their sense of will.

The taste: same as roasted goose, but blander and less oily.

Stir-fried broccoli

I’ve seen this aesthetics element in Chinese cuisine a couple of times now, where the cook will put pieces of the food in question back together after having cooked it i.e. with the braised pumpkin I had at Maojia restaurant (this review is coming up). With vegetables it’s pretty intriguing to look at, but with animals… I hope they don’t come up with too many variations on that..

Broccoli’s Chinese name once transliterated is actually something along the lines of “Western flower” which I had found quite interesting.

The taste: Basic minced garlic stir-fry seasoned with a bit of soy sauce and given the distinctive Chinese gooey texture with some tapioca flour and water.

Hainan style chicken.

In fact, I only called it “Hainan style chicken” because it had looked and tasted similar to the dish. But without having known the name on the menu, I have no idea whether that was an accurate description. The chicken was slightly bland. I imagine it would have been made in a similar way as Hainan chicken which is basically just boiling the chicken whole in broth, then air-drying before chopping up into desired portions.

However, the sauce eaten with this chicken was beyond awesome. It was a perfect combination of minced ginger and Chinese vinegar with soy sauce, a bit of oil and a secret ingredient that had made the sauce spicy but not in a chilli way.

And this is the end of my review on the Cantonese-style No. 56 restaurant, which when I do return to Jinan, Shandong in China, I  probably would unavoidably make yet another re-visit. Why? From the words of locals – “The food is alright, it’s just the best quality dine-in restaurant around here.”


Mongolian-style “羊汤” Lamb soup with the most delicious flat bread ever in Shandong Province, China

In case you were wondering about the changes in quality and size of my side photos, this is due to the fact that I had switched from using my tablet to my smart phone for camera.. The pictures may be smaller, but at least the food still looks delicious!

On my second night in Shandong Province, China, my dad and I made a visit to this little restaurant by the road, which specializes in “lamb soup“. The shop was located within a walking distance from the Main South Gate of Shandong University.

“Lamb soup” is a popular dish in the Northern regions of China. The hot soup and fat from lamb meat warms up the body and give you energy to fight against the cold during the winter in these regions (Shandong winter is nothing compared to Mongolia or Ha’er bin though)

Omelette with green chillies.
The signature “Lamb soup” and omelette with green chillies.

Other than “Lamb soup” which was pretty much what anyone who steps foot into the restaurant would order (otherwise you would look like a weirdo going into a Lamb soup shop, looking for fried rice?), one can also order a wide range of “家常” dishes or “Home-style cooked” dishes which seems to be Chinese people’s favourite and go-to food when dining out.

I mean, about 50% of the little restaurants over there would attach a big sign saying “家常” next to their logo just to attract customers.

Anyway, the restaurant was decorated pretty plainly, all the tables were a smooth black, and the chairs accompanying them were rectangular shaped little stools. It seems Chinese people have the habit of sitting on little seats. At least that’s what I’ve found with most public seats which are usually a table and stools set made with stone. Most of the time, I could only sit half a buttocks on the stools each time.

What struck me about the restaurant was the fact that as you walked in, you would immediately be faced with the restaurant’s kitchen, of which there is only a long line of adjoined counters separating the dining area and the working area. Then on the right hand corner, there is a big round metal pot filled to the brim with lamb soup, all boiling and condensing to its delicious flavour through constant stewing. Bobbing up and disappearing the next second within the whitish soup were a few pieces of lamb bones. Next to the lamb soup pot are a small self-serve area where you can help yourselves to dried blackened pieces of spiced lamb which you can have along with the soup.

I had forgotten how much each bowl of lamb soup costed, but it shouldn’t be much since all you get is soup, with about four thin slices of fatty lamb (isn’t it strange to put “thin” and “fat” together in once sentence. Haha.) floating every now and then.

Looking at how calorific, from the colour, and the way the soup had been cooked, I wasn’t that keen on having the soup. But surprisingly, the soup didn’t taste fatty or oily or icky at all. It was actually quite soothing to gulp down the hot soup on a cold February night (like we were outdoors in the cold) I had thought the soup would taste 100% fat from the white colour, but in fact, the texture wasn’t thick. And the ingredients used in flavouring it reduced the queasy feel you normally get from the fat and smell of lamb meat. They must have used black pepper, and some other northern specialized spices in flavouring the soup.

There is something about the taste of lamb that is quite soothing. Kind of like home, and being safe and warm. Which is a sad feeling since you are getting that from eating a baby animal..

I’ve encountered quite a few totally high-calorific looking soup that looked about 1,000 calories per serving, but turned out to not taste that icky, such as this “Lamb soup” (and a few kinds of fish head soup), and I had figured the white colour of the soup must have come from other things in the bones used in making stock, such as bone marrow, and a few other nutritious components (I hope).

Perhaps, the same goes for the white-coloured soup for Ramen noodles. Actually, I think Ramen soup are actually still very calorific because for some soups they put a huge ladle full of pure fat in each bowls.

Back to the main point, being the strange person I am who enjoys the smell of lamb meat, I was pretty smug about sipping on my hot “Lamb soup” but to make things even better, the shop’s other specialty is “烧饼” or oven roasted flat bread which everyone eats along with the “Lamb soup”.

“烧饼”or oven roasted Mongolian flat bread.
“烧饼”or oven roasted Mongolian flat bread.

This flat bread is of traditional Mongolian recipe. When you order “Lamb soup” the waiter who was this buff guy in a round-necked long sleeved shirt, would immediately asked you how many pieces of flat bread we wanted. And once again, my dad and I were being total obvious foreigners (our passtime within our few days there while my dad was in China), and turned that guy’s head by requesting for only ‘a’ flat bread for ‘each’ person. Silence across the room.

This was because Shandong Province is known for huge food servings, especially wheat based food from giant steamed buns 馒头 bigger than the size of a man’s fist to 饺子 dumplings piling high on top of serving plates. Meat, especially beef is still a luxury over there. As a result, Shandong Province is also known as the home for huge, tall people.

As a result, most frequenters of this restaurant would order two or more flatbreads to go with their soup. Such as these two guys at the next table to us, with a basket stacked high with flat breads, and bowls of lamb soup already piling.

This flat bread was the best tasting flat bread I have ever tasted. It actually had a tinge of sweetness which I am guessing from a mixture of yeast fermentation and a dash of sugar. But it wasn’t all sweet, there was a certain flavour to it that was just right, which I am guessing was due to the chemical reactions between the heat crispy-ing up and browning the bread and the components of the bread itself. Then there was the aromatic flavours of sesame seeds sprinkled on top of the dough that just rounded up the flavour of this flat bread that to perfection. The texture might not have been as to die for as some flatbreads like the soft and chewy Indian “Naan”, but it is pretty impressive flatbread for staying as delicious as it was even though they were left ready made, stored inside big baskets with a white cloth draped over.

And then we also ordered one other dish to go with our small “Lamb soup” dinner:

Stir-fried “家常” home-style cabbages.

This is an example of the oh-so popular range of “Home-style dishes”, stir-fried cabbages with dried chillis. They are often cooked with dried chillis (of course), sliced garlic, and seasoned with soy sauce. Some are also made in a soury sort of taste (with black vinegar), but all their must-have component is the dried chillies. Of course, you can adjust the spiciness to your liking.

There is a funny occasion surrounding the ordering of this dish. Because at the time, I had no idea how to read Chinese, I didn’t really know what sort of vegetables were used for this dish, except that it was vegetables. Then shortly after we made our order, I turned to the kitchen area, and noticed one of the very professional looking chefs in those white chef suits (which I found a strange polar for this little restaurant: the totally, aloof, almost gangster-looking attendants at the service section, and the professional-looking chefs with even chef hats, in the kitchen area) ducked down underneath the counters rummaging through raw materials and returned with a huge whole cabbage which he casually propped on to the chopping board, and promptly proceeded to chopping the whole plant up. I turned to look at my dad and said, half-scared, half-amused asked him whether that was for us.

He looked at me with ‘you-know-the-answer’ look. I was slightly dumbfounded about having ordered a dish of one whole cabbage, stir-fried, but it had turned out to be quite delicious – the cabbage weren’t too wilted, and the seasoning was just right. Soy-saucey (a mixture of a tinge of sweetness, saltiness, and soybean flavours), faintly garlicky and slightly spicy, with the distinctive aromatic smokey flavours of Chinese stir-fries. We made cabbage doner kebabs by wrapping the veggies in the delicious flatbreads.

Also, what I found cool about that restaurant was that they had free spices you can use for seasoning your food. Most tables had a little steel four condiments holder with each jars containing salt, MSG, dried chilli and powdered cumin. I had never encountered self-serving cumin at restaurants so I was pretty excited about that.

I believe from that point on, I started to become more convinced that Chinese food, notorious within the health conscious circle as being too oily or salty, are actually palatable, and in fact, quite delicious. Slowly, from the fat-phobia and carb-reprover I was, I was turning into an authentic Chinese food lover.



No. 56 Restaurant 高第街56号 – Cantonese/Hong Kong-style cuisine in Shandong, Northern Chinese Province.

Who would have expected to find a fancy Hong-kong style cuisine restaurant in the quiet university district in Jinan, Shandong, and most importantly, one that actually serves very delicious Cantonese food!

On my second day in China, we went to a grand, two-storeyed Cantonese restaurant, a five-minute walk from Shandong University, for a lunch meeting with Chinese friends.

Another surprising thing I have encountered in China, is the size and grandness of some of the restaurants there. Luxury in dining is easily affordable in China. This restaurant had chandeliers, private rooms, lacquered dining table sets, etc. with prices affordable for typical white-collared Chinese workers i.e. prices ranging from around 16 – 80 or more yuan. Actually, most of them has the appearance of an old, gangster lair… which is quite an interesting environment to dine in!

Now onto the food. This is just to showcase some of dishes common in Cantonese cuisine, and also a few with some Shandong flavours. I won’t know all the components of each dishes, but I will try my best to describe them, in the case where you may want to attempt recreating some of the dishes in your own kitchens!

烧鹅 shao e (roasted goose)

Roasted duck is a signature of Hong Kong cuisine (imagine ducks hung behind glass windows at Hong Kong restaurants), but roasted goose is no less a celebrated dish. Roasted goose is, although less popular, more expensive per plate, they are mostly sold in either whole or half a bird, so is better ordered at get togethers. This may be due to the size and quaility of meat? Goose normally has got more delicate textures.

The taste was not bad. Goose meat is softer than duck as the meat seems to contain a higher percentage of fat. The chef made no effort of rendering the meat of its abundance of fat, and this resulted in super moist, roasted goose which is delicious but can leave you with a sickly feeling after the third or even second piece.

Stir-fried mushroom
Stir-fried mushroom

I have no idea what this mushroom is called but it tasted very intriguing! According to our Chinese friend, it is a native mushroom. This mushroom once cooked didn’t become all mushy like most, but became slightly chewy and elastic. The texture could be compared to squid (They’re vegan squids!). I suspect the chef may have used the ‘stem’ parts of mushrooms where you can often achieve the similR chewy texture once dehydrated.

The mushrooms had been stir fried with heavy oil and seasoned with soy sauce. Although it was well-seasoned and had interesting texture, and flavour, they had used too much oil in cooking it, making the dish also slightly sickly.

Stir-fried chicken with green chillies
Stir-fried chicken with green chillies

Once again, another very oily dish, but its oily feel was slightly reduced by the spiciness of green chillies, garlic and red onions (which are actually purple..)

I really like this Chinese stir-fry combination of garlic, red onions and green chillies (perhaps the equivalent of jalapenos?). When re-creating this combination, you must also use a sweet tasting flavouring sauce i.e. sweet tasting fermented bean paste. The dish would end up with a slight sweet tinge that is overtoned with garlicky flavours and invigorating, spiciness of chilli.

I’ve found that a trend with the meat used in this style dish is soft texture. The chicken above was just incredibly soft with a slight elasticity with each chew that really made the dish perfect, save for overflow of soybean oil (oil most often used in Chinese kitchens). I’ve also had another same-styled stir fry at a different restaurant, but with thinly sliced, lamb (which is already naturally soft with its high fat contents i.e. without marinating) instead of chicken eaten along with ‘bing’ or thin pancakes. It was uber divine!

I believe the key in making this dish is the sweetness in some sort of a sweet soybean sauce i.e. the Korean red-coloured bean paste, and not over-cooking the garlic maintaining the crispy and pungent flavour, and not restricting the oil content. It doesn’t need to be another one of many super oil-drenched Chinese dish, but it can’t be made low-fat, otherwise the essence of the dish will be altered.

Anyway, the half raw garlic helps a lot with reducing queasiness caused by oiliness or meat. It’s always a good idea to eat raw garlic with oily/meaty dish to counteract certain chemicals in those foods.

Fried squid rings and chicken wings with chilli
Fried squid rings and chicken wings with chilli

This is an example of typical Sichuan dish. They love all sorts of fried foods covered with mounds of chili that has been fried along with them. You won’t believe the amount of chillies Sichuan chefs put into each dish, so much chillies that I feel bad that there are so many leftover chillies. Most Chinese don’t even eat the actual chillies: to them they’re only there for the flavour.

Apparently, accoring to my mentor in China, Sichuan people are known as the most good-looking people in all of China due to their diet which is high in chillies. And he also have heard of Chinese researches that had linked chilli-eating and weight loss (You won’t believe how crazy Chinese people in China are about losing weight). Finally, the Chinese have also caught on the diet band-wagon.

I guess that is why the more oily, the more chillies with Sichuan dishes?

What was the taste of the dish like? Basically, deep fried food taste. As you can tell, I’m not much of a fan. But for some reason, they have put sliced bamboo shoots down the bottom as well. I’m quite intrigued by Chinese people’s use of bamboo shoots in dishes, it seems like there are so many of them, they are simply put into every dishes as secondary ingredients. I am yet to learn more of the history of bamboo shoots used in Chinese cuisine…

Fish head soup.
Fish head soup.

This was a pretty plain fish head soup. It seems they have used a river fish. The soup tasted slightly creamy (essence from fish head) but mostly quite plain and not too strongly-flavoured. Other ingredients included soft tofu, some green vegetables and bamboo shoots.

A deep-fried mushroom medley (I made up the name myself)
A deep-fried mushroom medley (I made up the name myself)

This dish was pretty tasty for a deep-fried dish, mostly because it had some vegetables flavours. Deep-fried mushrooms are pretty much one of the few deep-fried foods I enjoy. Chewy and with a slightly soft interior, it was also well-seasoned.

Vegetables stir-fry – some strips of root vegetables (perhaps some variety of bamboo shoots?), spring onions, squid strips and about three small slices of fresh capsicum as a garnish (which I desperately grappled after rounds after rounds of oiliness “fresh veggies!!!”)

This tasted averagely good.

Sweet potatoes, pumpkin in coconut milk.
Sweet potatoes, pumpkin in coconut milk.

This was one of my favourite dishes ever at No. 56 Restaurant, and I had gone there a total of five times during my four month stay in Jinan. Imagine the competition it won over.

The sweet and chewy sweet potatoes (could be because I have a strange obsession with sweet potatoes) went very well with the creaminess and slightly gooey texture of the lightly sweetened coconut milk thick soup. The pumpkins gave a fresh taste which helped counterbalance the creaminess of the coconut milk soup.

I believe they had used tapioca flour or sweet potaotes flour in creating the gooey texture of the coconut milk soup. I know Western diners won’t be quite used to this gooey texture, but this is often used in Asian and South East Asian desserts. Their thickened coconut milk soup was also not too queasy tasting as most soup dishes with coconut milk/cream are like i.e. Thai curries, laksa noodles soup, with this dish, I can actually drink some of the soup.

What made this dish especially delicious could be because it was slow-cooked in a clay pot which had given it the special texture and flavour only achieved with clay pot cooking – a sort of slightly burnt and crispy taste.

In this review, I wasn’t all too praising about the dishes shown here, but in our following visits to the restaurant, we became more skillful in ordering the dishes. In the next upcoming reviews (will definitely be more on this restaurant), I will be introducing you guys to one of the most flavourful and healthy Southern/Cantonese Chinese dishes!






First ‘China Experience’ post – China’s centuries old street snacks and popular fast food chain, Yong Ho soybean milk

Regarding my China Experience, which I will mostly write around the areas of food and nutrition (I will also include a bit of information about Chinese living as well, of course), I had decided that I would start from the very beginning. The first few days of my arrival in China when I started recording my encounter with the foods in China through taking some photos of the foods I ate.

China’s centuries old street snacks:

A steamer filled with sweet and glutinous corns, next to a metal barrel roaster with sweet potatoes placed on the top. Both of them propped firmly on top of a cart. Chinese characters translation from the left: “Eat… Roasted sweet potatoes… Shandong (province in China)”

Roasted Chinese sweet potatoes and steamed corn. The perfect pairing of roasted and steamed sweet-flavoured starchy foods.

(*It would also be a good idea to mention in my first Chinese post where I was staying in China for four months.

Shandong. A northern province in China, one hour plane ride away from Beijing. It is also close to the Chinese state of Inner Mongolia. Known as the birth place of the Confuscious.

Shandong Province is mostly known for being the birthplace of the Confuscious, and for its various pastry foods or 煎饼 jianbing. I was living in the city of Jinan, a medium-sized Chinese city with a modest amount of air pollution.)

Anyway, roasted sweet potatoes and steamed corns have been around on the typical Chinese streets for centuries. As can be seen in a scene of Ip Man (Hong Kong film about the Kung Fu legend, Ip Man) where the main characters grab a snack of roasted sweet potatoes at a stall outside the theatre. This movie was set from the early 1900s to 1940s.

A scene from Ip Man. Sweet potatoes or “Di gua” given out to labourers. The sweet flavours of these starchy potatoes can lift up the worst of spirits!

Why roasted sweet potatoes remain everlastingly Chinese people’s go-to snack foods I don’t know. It could be their distinctive flavourful and sweet taste, and the delicious combination of crispy outer skin and the soft interior (Although most people prefer not to eat the skin, I’m not one of them. It’s the best part!).

Sweet potatoes are sold according to their weight. One big piece would be about 5 yuan. Then the stall owner will put the potatoes in a small plastic bag for you.

Of course, like in many fast-developing countries, traditional foods are starting to go out of fashion, and the younger generation begins to prefer having Western-style fast foods or sweets like chocolates, etc.

Glutinous corn – soft enough to be broken without much force, by hands.
Glutinous corn – 100% no sugar. It is very difficult to find naturally unsweetened glutinous corn sold on the streets in Bangkok.
Roasted sweet potatoes, what it looks like whole.

However, I like how in China, relatively all-natural foods, dishes and snacks are still commonly eaten. For example, steamed corn or roasted sweet potatoes.

Why? One, because these simple snack foods are still much cheaper than snacks like a bag of chips or a bar of chocolate (by at least two times, comparing between weight and values). Two, from what I have observed, Chinese people have a bit of an interest in eating health foods.

Chinese people’s insistence on natural whole foods can be seen in this still-popular “fast-food chain”:

fast-food and soymilk chain restaurant.
Yongho – fast-food and soybean milk chain restaurant.

Imagine a soybean milk chain store opened in a Western country or even in Thailand? Would it even last longer than a month? And the store even offers ‘orginal’ or unsweetened version of soybean milk on their menu. This would not happen in Bangkok.

I feel like Chinese people’s preference in whole, real foods can be demonstrated in the type of foods served in their fast food restaurants such as Yong Ho, Li Xiansheng, etc. Most of which serves noodle-soup dishes, fried rice or pan-fried pastries.

Yong Ho meal – noodle soup with pot herb (picked veggies) and pork, and soy bean milk and deep fried dough sticks.

These fast-food meals aren’t the healthiest, but at least most of them they aren’t too greasy and includes a bit of legitimate veggies.

I will include a post regarding Chinese fast-food restaurants some time soon because I was quite fascinated with them myself. Chinese fast-food can’t be that much different from typical Chinese dishes though, because naturally they can be prepared very quickly anyway. Just cheaper with less meaty bits and more noodles.

Anyway, in conclusion, Chinese sweet potatoes are the best variety of sweet potatoes I have ever eaten (at least two times tastier than purple skinned Japanese potatoes, or red skinned Korean ones), and the healthiest street food I have ever tried. When in China, do not miss the chance to try out roasted sweet potatoes, available in most regions in China, and usually only during the Winter to Autumn months.

– Izzy


Why the 4 month absence?

Hello friends, followers, bloggers, internet browsers and readers,

I’m very sorry for having left a cliff hanger which was my latest post on January 18th http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/audrey-cafe-and-bistro-desserts-review-super-scrumptious-sweets-and-a-lovely-atmosphere/. I called the post a cliffhanger as following that I had completely stopped blogging without any notification, and left readers hanging on any possible food adventures that may arise.

So, what could be the reason for my four months absence? And why precisely four months? And what could be that certain entity that co-erced me to not log in to WordPress at all?

It is nothing exciting: I was simply away in China for a Language and Culture course which went on for four months during the gap between the end of high school and start of college.

The course was in Shandong University in Shandong Province, China. And definitely, this trip involved food and more food experiments i.e. trying out native food materials, traditional recipes, snacks, etc. Not so much cooking as I really didn’t have time and the equipments, what with all the class schedulings and sight seeings.

Soft tofu in spicy sauce (soy sauce, sesame oil, chili, etc.) – 毛家 Mao’s House Restaraunt. This was a restaurant which served mainly Mao Zedong, leader of the Chinese cultural revolution, favourite dishes. One of them which includes this spicy soft tofu.

But all in all, I hope to be able to share with you recordings, pictures, and etc. of food and my travel experiences in China, as much as I can before college begins this fall.

Braised Pumpkin (unfortunately have been carved out by a certain hungry person)- 毛家restaurant

Stay tuned for the upcoming, exciting, new post.

– Izzy

What Chinese people ate on Chinese New Year (in my case)

*This post is way overdue… It was meant to be posted up around the time of Chinese New Year which was two weeks ago on the 30th of January, however, I have simply been extremely busy. Nevertheless, there is no restriction on when one can admire images of yummy food and learn a bit more about the Chinese New Year food traditions. So here it is (meanwhile, I will work on putting up new posts on restaurant reviews and also interesting Thai fresh produce I have encountered on a recent trip to a fresh produce market)


There is no exact formula for “Chinese New Year” food. Christmas dishes in Western countries tend to be themed around the collection of: turkey/chicken/ham, mashed sweet potatoes, and desserts like Christmas pudding, however, for a celebration like Chinese New Year, the dishes tend to vary a lot.

I’m not being biased, but I feel there are a lot more dimensions in Asian cuisine than Western – whether it would be the method of cooking or ingredients used.

As regards to Chinese New Year, of course, there are a couple of dishes widely present on the dining tables all across Asian (or in countries that celebrate Chinese New Year, other than in China) countries. A sample of Asian countries who also celebrate Chinese New Year other than China include: Singapore, Malaysia, and of course, Thailand. It is usually people of Chinese descents who truly celebrate Chinese New Year i.e. follow the customs (like wearing certain coloured clothes).

The essential components for a Chinese New Year meal which I had mentioned include: a fish dish, roasted duck or chicken, and oranges, just to name a few.

I wanted to share what ‘Chinese families’ eat to celebrate Chinese New Year, so here is the menu of what I ate on the 30th of January.


Here is an impressive tower of Chinese-style filled buns. The buns were shaped like peaches because in Chinese culture and ancient tales, peaches are thought of as “heaven foods” i.e. fruits found in heaven. Therefore, those who eat the peaches will have a long-life (remember the sacred peach tree in Kungfu Panda?) The buns were not bad at all despite looking really hard on the outside. However, once steamed, the buns became cotton soft, and the fillings were.. well, not that special. They include the typical: taro, custard cream (no actual cream used) and black beans.


Here was the menu of our order at the restaurant.


A selection of Chinese-style snacks as hors d’oeurves. The tiny balls are sugar-coated peanuts (super sweet!), next to the balls are “tuo-tad” which in my previous post I had shown the making of. “Tuo-tad” is basically a very crispy and sweet bar made from caramel and nuts. The one next to “Tuo-tad” is “kor-ped-nga” a similar sort of sweet but uses mostly sesame seeds, chewier and less sweet. Beside the sesame seeds are something I had never tried: crystallized winter melon. Winter melon are known for their blandness, and high water content, similar to radish. Extremely low in calories but when boiled in syrup, there is no doubt they would absorb a lot of the sugar. To the left of the “crystallized winter melon” were “rice puffs” style snacks, which taste basically like the Western-style “rice pop bars”.

Onto ‘savoury hors d’oeurves’:


Clockwise from upper left hand corner: wine-soaked chicken. This is a popular ‘upper-scale’ Chinese dish. The chicken has been roasted or steamed, then soaked in rice wine. The taste is of slight tinges of alcoholic sweetness and the texture is very soft, melt in your mouth. The texture of wine-soaked chicken ranges from slightly chewy to really soft, such as this one. Most people would like the soft, almost creamy texture, but this would mean that the chicken has been soaked for a very long time in alcohol, which would have killed off a lot of the vitamins present in chicken i.e. vitamin B’s or omega 6 fatty acids. To the upper right hand corner is one of my favourite Chinese dishes (because it is not so oily and heavy as others) spicy jellyfish. The jellyfish has been tossed in a ‘spicy salad sauce’ of Chinese vinegar, soy sauce, a bit of chili, sesame oil and garnished with chopped spring onions. The taste is sweet, sour and slightly spicy. At the bottom are pork ribs with red wine. The pork ribs are also on the sweet, but mostly salty side. In the middle of the plate is “calamari” or oven roasted battered squid.  Personally, this non-fried calamari was not very properly prepared: the batter was too thick and tough, and there were only pieces of squid the thickness of straws. The deep fried squid were served in an elaborate deep fried taro shell which was slightly bland. The squid was sprinkled on top with fried garlic pieces, shallot, salt and chili.


Next we have one of the most famous Chinese New Year dishes, ‘Peking duck’. In Thailand, Peking ducks are normally only eaten with the skin, whereas traditionally in Beijing, the duck meat pieces that have been carved out from the roasted duck are also taken with the pastry. The method of eating Peking duck is taking a piece of duck skin, cucumber and spring onion, then wrap all of this with a thin piece of pastry (basically pancake with no egg). Before rolling the entire mix up into a sizeable wrap, top the arrangement off with a thick, sweet soysauce.

Personally, I prefer the traditional way of eating Peking duck, with the meat because I don’t find much point with eating tasteless albeit crispy duck skin. In Thailand, the duck meat not eaten with the pancakes is then stir-fried with a bit of salt, garlic, and lots of oil which I feel is already too much for a type of meat that is already quite fatty. However, Peking duck (roasted type only) is not the most fatty dish out there despite the oily appearance of the super shiny skin: because the roasted duck are normally squeezed off as possible of oil (hung up-side-down), to achieve the extreme crispy skin.


Stir-fried prawns with garlic and asparagus.  The flavour of garlic is actually quite undertoned in this dish. It was not too oily for a Chinese stir-fry (unlike the dishes I’ve had in New Zealand… Thai Chinese restaurants are much healthier). The shrimps seemed to have been initially lightly boiled to achieve a soft texture then quickly stir-fried with extreme heat to achieve a slight crispy exterior yet tender inside. I also liked the fact that this restaurant actually put the effort into shelling their asparagus! (finally I can eat asparagus at a restaurant! Instead of leaving them as chewed up mush on the side of the plate) The sauce which the prawns were cooked in was possibly a mixture of soybean sauce, garlic and flour for a slightly gooey feel.


This was one of my favourite dishes of the night – Braised duck with gingko nuts in oyster sauce – because it was not so oily. Within the dish were melt-in-your-mouth slices of abalone (I find that Asian abalones which are whitish in colour, as compared to slightly blue tinges of New Zealand abalones slightly softer), luscious pieces of boychoy, and a few kinds of mushrooms which include ‘white fungus’ (texture like seaweed) and juicy shiitake. I loved the generous portions of veggies in a not-so-oily gravy. The soft texture of abalone and its sophisticated, seafood flavour went really well with the mushrooms. However, I realized the rule of thumb with seafood is that the harder and more rubbery the texture, the fresher the produce. Therefore, the yummy abalone was in fact about to go off.


Deep-fried soft shell crab with salt and chili. This dish was pretty impressive. The saltiness and pepperiness of the batter was just right, and the flavours of the crab went very well with the crunchy garlic pieces, chili and chopped spring onions. Sure, the batter was thick, but the pieces of soft-shell crabs were pretty generous as well. Thanks crab for sacrificing yourself!


A random image of my mum’s vegan/vegetarian option. The restaurant were super professional about preparing a “orengi” mushroom stir fry with a side of broccoli, and rice noodles with veggies in gravy for my mum’s special dietary requirement.


Steamed seabass with chili and lemon sauce. This was definitely a dish I was waiting for. Fish dishes are one of the healthiest options you can choose at a Chinese restaurant. They are normally cooked with minimal oil, and seasoned with lots of good herbs like…. However, this steamed fish was rather disappointing. It was undercooked, when served, the flesh within was still slightly pink! I could kind of tell from just looking at the scales and skin of the fish, that it has not been well cooked. The inside of the eyes were also still slimy. We did send the fish back, only to receive it back upon the reason that if cooked longer, the fish would become too mushy (and also some weak argument about the lighting causing the flesh to appear pink). I suppose the fish was quite fresh, because none of us got diarrhea after eating it! The sauce was not bad: garlicky, herby and slightly spicy and sour. It was however, a bit too sweet to be Chinese! I feel like the restaurant was going a bit too Thai-fusiony with their dishes.


This was what they have done to perfectly juicy roasted duck. Thai people prefer the flavours and chewy texture of fried duck in garlic. This can be eaten with fried rice.

Other than the foods pictured, there were also the “shark fin soup” (dun, dun, dun!) that came after the hors d’oeuvres, hokkien-style noodles that came before dessert which nearly everyone had to take home because they had already eaten so much (which is a shame because they have an auspicious meaning of ‘long-life’. Oh well, we already ate fish meaning having a surplus for the year). And also the dessert which was chilled sweet tapioca and cantaloupe in coconut milk.


This was one of the desserts exchanged by family members at the restaurant. A Thai dessert called “Look-choop” shaped into orannges, for a Chinese New Year twist. “Look-choop” was also a childhood favourite of mine, because the mung beans mixture which are later encased in jelly (to hold shape) can be molded into a variety of delicious-looking, colourful mini fruits. But I remember I did not like the taste much which was rather “beany” (as a friend’s friend from Australia whom I took around had accurately described, “just like eating beans”) and not so sweet.


Stay in tune for my next post about my “Chinese New Year holiday” in Thai’s beach district, Huahin!

– Izzy

Papa’s most delicious canned fish salsa! (cheap, quick and super convenient)

My dad is one heck of a cook I tell you. However, being Chinese, he has no idea how to use spices. Salt, soybean sauce and pepper are his condiments of choice: making delicious dishes out of only three seasoning ingredients is pretty impressive (which supports my claim that my dad is a good cook). All you need to do to believe me is try some of his recipes out for yourself! Such as this one!

And being Chinese, my dad cooks very quickly. He is able to make two Chinese-style stir-fries in 5 minutes, which is a handy skill when you are cooking for very hungry teens.

This delicious canned fish recipe would be done and ready for serve in 5 minutes.

Who would’ve known that one can make an exotic fish salsa from canned fish? What you need is simply some canned mackerel, tuna, tomato sauce and onions (preferably red)

Canned fish is not only a cheap source of protein, it also comes packed with lots of nutrients like omega-6 and 3 oils, fat soluble vitamins found in fish, and calcium (because the bones becomes very soft and therefore edible).

Although one must also keep in mind about the saturated fats that can come when your canned fish has been cooked in other sauces or soaked in vegetable oil. And as with canned foods, canned fish tend to also be very high in sodium.

Nevertheless, owing to the decent taste and convenience of canned fish, when you are desperate for a filling and nutritious source of protein, this is the one to turn to!


My dad never does anything with little or no effort. Therefore, canned fish for him shall not be eaten as they are. So here is his flavourful rendition of canned fish:

Canned fish salsa


1 can of mackerel in tomato sauce

1 can of tuna in oil

1 onion, chopped

Half a lime

1 red chili

A dash of pepper and salt


Stir fry the canned fish in a pan at medium heat, along with the chopped onions. The mackerel will come to smaller pieces as you stir fry the mix. Simmer the mixture at low heat until the onions become soft. Add lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

rosa mackerel
This was the brand of canned fish we had used. Although any mackerel or even tuna in tomato sauce would do.

About the amazing taste:
This canned fish salsa is simply delicious. It is a blend of slight saltiness, spiciness and sour. It is not sweet, but has slight aromatic hint from the onions. Most of all, despite coming from canned products, it tastes very authentic. This is brought about through the use of fresh ingredients like red onions, chili and lime.
This canned fish salsa can be eaten alongside salad, or with noodles/spaghetti as some sort of a pasta dish. Add a bit of olive oil (my dad chucked in about a tablespoon) for an Italian twist when eating with pasta! And voila! You’ve got a super easy and versatile recipe to experiment with!


“Kwan-riam” floating market – a brand new floating market experience – part 2 and the famous “Kopi” coffee/breakfast shop review

*Just a note: this post was first drafted at the start of the week, so “today” doesn’t literally mean today.

Once upon a time, there was a very famous coffee shop with a funny name of “Kopi” that my grand uncle and aunty just had to go to every weekend. Even during the boiling points of the Thai anti-government protests, they had to go to this restaurant.

The story is that on the past weekend we – our family which includes “Ah-tia” granduncle, his children or mum’s cousins, my aunties, uncle, and the little children (my baby cousins) – decided to make a group visit to this “Kwan-riam floating market” so highly recommended by my mum and I (Previous post here: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/kwan-riam-floating-market-a-brand-new-floating-market-experience-when-contemporary-meets-modern-day-thai-part-1/)

That weekend, grandaunt or “Ah-lao Goh” happened to have flown over to Chiangmai for a trip (Chiangmai is only an one hour plan ride from Bangkok, and so some Thais just fly over to the beautiful north to chill on the weekend *stay in tune for my review on a Chiangmai resort!*) so we were not fortunate enough to have her jovial company for the day.

But before going to the market, “Ah-tia” of course would love to pay the coffee shop/restaurant “Kopi” another visit. So we all: 10 odd people decided to go to the restaurant for our breakfast.


This was the entrance to the restaurant. Its full name is “Kopi Hia Thai Ki” which is a Chinese ‘Taechew’ dialect. The coffee shop has been operating in Bangkok for over 60 years and it just happens to be located next to my favourite spot in the city: the monument of democracy. In other words, where the biggest party of Anti-government demonstration takes place.

(I paid a sight seeing visit to the protesting grounds in this post: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/taking-a-stroll-down-the-thai-protestors-headquarters-free-thai-style-salad-and-the-infamous-grilled-chicken-restaurant/)

In fact, we heard loud bangs while driving on the motorway towards the “Rajdamnern” district where the coffee shop is located. Later that evening, we would learn of the violent outbreaks which took place around the area.

But anyway, not even citywide demonstrations can stop people from eating, consumers from buying, and shop owners from selling, especially in a country like Thailand.

So here we were at the “Kopi” restaurant/coffee shop:Image

(A view from the opposite side)Image

The restaurant mostly sold breakfast food, some Thai dishes, and definitely coffee.

Note: what’s interesting is the self-service at this shop. Unlike most Thai restaurants where you normally get about three waiters/waitresses surrounding your table while you uncomfortably eat (it’s just me who’s still not used to it), this shop elects for its customers to come up to collect their orders. (Don’t know why, but it’s a nice change so no one complains *get some exercise*)

As you can see in the image, they also sell Chinese style buns or “salabao” in Taechew dialect. These buns are everywhere in Thailand! Many restaurants include them in their menu, ready made in see-through steamers.Image

The restaurant displayed their appetizing menus on to the walls. Their entire interior was kept in good condition despite the old age, and decorated with antiques – remnants of the old Thai culture.


As you can see in another view of the restaurant here, antiques include: Grandfather clock, they also had black-and-white pictures of the old Siam stuck on the wall elsewhere

(just a random note: their bathroom was also pretty clean. The door was made of wood, and they used an old-fashion lock system which was a plank of wood through some sort of a wedge, to go with the old-fashion Thai-Chinese atmosphere *have you seen Chinese movies set in the old times? It looked like on of those locks into big courtyard doors*)

Of course, we had to order coffee at “Kopi”

Afterall, Grandaunty had highly commended “Kopi”‘s coffee as “super good”. This was later emphasized by my mum who had a normal hot “Kopi” coffee with milk.


This was one of my many aunties’ order (not aunty by blood, but my mum’s cousin’s partner): “Coffe-te” which is Thai coffee mixed with a bit of cane sugar juice, milk and condensed milk. The coffee looked most aesthetically impressive so it was the only drink order I took a photo of (also because the aunty was sitting at my table haha – convenience.)

Other than that, we have a photo of my “Kopi” coffee order too!


I would normally order an iced latte at coffee shops (least strong) but because I happened to have a cold and a slightly funny throat: cold drink or milk was out of the question (Dairy products can increase production of phlegm in your throat), but since Grandaunty so highly recommended “Kopi” coffee, I had to order one!

One order of which was “Cha-fae” – “Cha” means tea and “fae” comes from the way Thai people pronounce coffee i.e. “Ga-Fae”. Believing the drink, which was a blend of ceylon tea and coffee, would not be as strong as pure espresso, I took large sips of the warm drink to soothe my throat.

I was so wrong! The “Cha-fae” was incredibly strong. The inclusion of ceylon tea had made the drink even more bitter with a herby aftertaste. I imagine the drink would taste much better with the condensed milk that is normally served with it.

I can now say that “Kopi” definitely uses real coffee, and for those coffee-weaklings such as I myself, “Kopi” also has a wide range of yummy looking drinks such as their iced lattes, infamous “Choffee” which is a mixture of chocolate and coffee, and a whole variety of other Thai iced drinks like Thai iced tea, “iced milk” (red syrup with milk – kids’ favourite), etc. or iced green tea with milk.

And now onto the food orders! Before I go on, however, I would like to note that the restaurant’s food portions were very small. Even smaller than the average ‘Thai portions’ (about half). And Thai portions are about 2/3 of the standard ‘Western servings’ (where coming back and dining here has been a great change from stuffing my face back in New Zealand, for fear of wasting food)

The reason why the restaurant halve their serving sizes could be because they are more of a “cafe” setting. However, they don’t only sell the breakfast type foods they are famous for i.e. Thai noodles dishes. Nevertheless, this also means the prices of each dish are reduced.

This was their infamous “pan eggs” or “Kai grata” served with a small toasted baguette filled with Chinese sausage – 75 baht.

It was dubbed by the restaurant as ‘the “pan eggs” you must try at least once in your life’ (oops! I didn’t)


To be honest, it did not look that impressive at all. The dish was two eggs, some Chinese sausage, minced pork and a few peas, all cooked in a small pan.


But what about the taste?

Words from my aunty (this time by blood – my mum’s sister) guaranteed my prediction: the “pan eggs” were not “all that”. The flavours were of seasoned eggs, minced pork stir-fried in soy sauce, and a little bit of sweetness from the Chinese sausage. Basically, the dish was something one can make at home.

Here is another one of the dishes on their recommended menu:


Pork rib stew with fried egg – 69 Baht. Because it was so cheap, be ready to expect two pieces of pork on bone only! The stew soup also looked very thin, as if it hadn’t undergone the proper period of slow-cooking at all.

Because of the small portions and low price of each dish, most of the members of our bandwagon of family ordered two dishes – which is a good thing because we were able to try more dishes from the cafe’s menu! For example, for 144 baht, one can try both the ‘Western’ style “pan eggs” and the “pork rib stew” (144 baht is a typical price for a meal at a Thai restaurant – not like at Japanese or International restaurants I have been going to).

On to my order:


Salmon steak with buttered toast and salad – 110 baht. It was more expensive because of the fish. But don’t be fooled by the photograph! The piece of fish given was very minute: I was able to gulp it down with four bites (also because I was hungry that morning). But then again, it is salmon, and you can’t get so cheap and make a profit.

The salmon steak was averagely cooked, but the seasoning of salt, pepper and lime was just right.

What I dislike about the dish however, were the use of mayonnaise as the salad dressing (of which the veggies given were way too little), and the mayonnaise served alongside the fish which tasted simply like sugar, vegetable oil and a bit of eggs. It gave the bad impression that they used low-quality raw materials in their cooking (but then that’s how you survive with low-priced menu)

I also hated the fact that they put sugar in their buttered toasts. Who eats sugary toasts with steak? I guess Thai people, since everyone seemed to praise this signature toast of theirs.

Another one of their famous dish was “Roti” which is pan-fried dough.


Their “roti” is distinctively puffy. Very light and crispy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside.

As a closing remark, “Kopi Hia Thai Ki” is a coffee shop for family with an authentic Thai experience. From what my aunty said, it is more the atmosphere, the uniqueness of the restaurant e.g. self-service, the getting together of family that makes dining there so special, and the food somewhat delicious. “Kopi” is located at Phan Fa bridge, Phra Sumeru road, Bavornnivej, Bangkok.

Without much further ado, let’s move onto the segment of the post dedicated to the first part of its title… “Kwan-riam” floating market.

(I highly recommend you to first read part 1 of the review of this market: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/kwan-riam-floating-market-a-brand-new-floating-market-experience-when-contemporary-meets-modern-day-thai-part-1/ )

Upon entering the market, my mum quickly pointed out this particular ‘snacks’ cart to me. She asked me if I had remembered this sort of cart store in which my reply was “No”.

I honestly have no memory of this sort of ‘snacks’ cart, but I am familiar with the Thai dessert, “Roti saimai” (Roti meaning the pastry, and saimai means candyfloss).


They are thin pancakes flavoured with pandan leaves’ juice (long green leaves that smells very aromatic and have a distinct herbally/sweet flavour – used often in Thai/South East Asian desserts), wrapped around Thai candyfloss or “saimai“. Unlike the pink, fluffy candyfloss many people are familiar with, Thai candyfloss contains a mixture of palm sugar, and therefore has a distinct lightly ‘burnt’ taste, and is more chewy, crunchy rather than simply cloud-like soft.

And about the little cart: you somewhat play a ‘game of luck’. What you do is put some money, about 20 baht into the wooden mechanism attached to the cart, and you get to try your luck with how many candyfloss pancakes you get.

I seriously have no memory of this whatsoever. Sounds cool though.

Then we passed by the horsies again. Today, they gave the ponies a new hairdo. One can choose to buy carrot sticks to feed the ponies, or if you are small enough, you can go around for a ride around the market (just kidding, only kids are allowed)


As I have mentioned in my previous post about this floating market, there are more things to do here other than eat and buy some clothes.


(I must say that I suit the black square box look)

After having wrapped breakfast up at 11 am that morning, we all agreed that we would better opt for some desserts or small snacks at the market rather than a full midday meal. That was everyone’s opinion, apart from one of my two ‘uncles’ (mum’s cousins or Ah-tia’s sons) who kept insisting (with good intentions) that we should be having lunch too, in order to ‘eat in the correct healthful manner’. In the end, we managed to make him curb his appetite for delicious Thai foods that, at the market bombard you from all directions.


We immediately went straight for the ‘coconut ice-cream‘ appropriately served in coconut shells. Coconut ice-cream stalls can be found throughout Thailand or Bangkok, but you don’t often see them sold in coconut shells.

(Can you imagine poor ice-cream stall men lugging bags full of heavy coconut shells around by the road? I can see Thai Santa Claus in my mind)

The shop also offers a topping of salted duck eggs (as I said in my previous post, Thais or Asians have an obsession with salted duck eggs). Other delicious toppings include: pumpkin in syrup, kidney beans in syrup, all sorts of Thai dried fruits i.e. durian chips, corn, sprinkles, chocolate sauce, etc. (I love Asian dessert toppings which are mostly fruits, vegetables or beans, meaning they do not add too much sweetness to already decadent desserts. Unlike something like chocolate, m&m’s, etc.)


My mum’s option of topping (you get to choose three) were stewed pumpkin, rice puffs, and “Look-chid” or ‘palm seeds’. The white jellies are what you find on the inside of palm seeds. Without syrup, they are quite tasteless, but slightly crunchy. They are one of my favourite dessert topping, as they do not absorb much sugar in the syrup through cooking, and are mostly water and a bit of carbohydrate.


They also had a table and little stools (which was not pictured!) with cartoon drawings on them. It is floating market custom to sit and dine next to the boat restaurant on tiny little stools provided (I used to live at mum’s house in the countryside which was by the river, so I have some memories of ‘boat shops’)

The wooden furniture which my cousin was sitting on was supposed to be the shop’s table by the way (which everyone else in my family soon followed my young cousin’s lead and all sat crowded around on their table… sigh)

I forgot to mention that before we all sat down for some ice-cream, my mum also went off to buy herself some deep-fried vegetarian dumplings:


This was also the same stall that she had bought the steamed chives dumplings mentioned in the previous post. The dumplings had an array of vegetarian fillings including ‘five different types of mushroom’, ‘Thai spring onions’ or basically ‘chives’, and ‘mixed vegetables’.

This looks to be the ‘mixed veggies’ filling.


It contains Chinese cabbage, shiitake and carrots. Even meat-eaters, like my aunty, loved these dumplings.


These were the other kinds of dumplings they sold which my mum absolutely adored (the steamed chives ones). In the countryside home that belongs to my mum’s family, they were also famous for ‘steamed chives dumplings’ or “Gui-chai” in Thai. I remember the “Gui-chai” were known for the huge size, and lots of chives fillings. Those dumplings came in two kinds: pink coloured *notice the huge pink ones on the end in the picture above?* or plain. When I was a kid, I would always choose the pink kind because it looked cooler! (duh) But also because they usually stamp the pink dumplings with a Chinese character that makes the dumplings all textured and more fun to eat. The steamed chive dumplings we had in the countryside had a chewier ‘pastry’, while these ones were distinctively soft and slippery. Personally, I didn’t find slippery and jelly-like chive dumplings that appealing (my mum absolutely adored it)

Chive dumplings can be made in two ways: unhealthy and even more unhealthily. One includes boiling the rice flour mixture in water to make the pastry, while the other includes making the pastry (so it rolls into a ball of dough) by adding vegetable oil. Some people eat refined carbohydrate as their staple i.e. rice noodles, white bread, but not me. Therefore, I didn’t name the low-fat steamed chive dumplings as healthy.

Both of them would turn out oily anyway, because you need some oil to prevent the dumplings from sticking together like glue.


They also sold deep-fried chive dumplings cubes (the unhealthiest!)


A reminiscent image of the boat ride which I had briefly talked about in my previous post. It was bascially a 35 minute boat ride along the “Saen saeb” river (go and return trip). There wasn’t a lot to see apart from a few locals’ houses alongside the river where they had their traditional fishing nets out, a few birds to have a look at, etc. The boat ride was mainly a chance to enjoy the breeze and the simple pleasure in gliding along a river.


I had asked my younger cousins to go sit in front of the duck closure, to give an idea of the size of the ducks. This picture doesn’t really do the fowls much justice… They were about three times the size of normal ducks – giant beaks, giant webbed feet, wings, etc. And like I mentioned in my previous post, you can never get bored watching these things because they were constantly in some sort of an action i.e. that duck looking as if to ambush the other one.

Near the exit of the market, we also passed by this man making a Thai dessert called “Tuo tad” or transliterated as “nuts cut” (I never realize the name would translate out as this! HA!)

But anyway, I have never known exactly how they make the “nuts cut” or  “peanut toffee” into their shape and form, so this was an eye-opener for me.


Who would’ve known lots of rolling, and muscle work is required to turn a syrupy mixture of roasted peanuts and sesame seeds into these crunchy pieces of sweets?


In conclusion, “Kwan-riam” floating market has been a place where I was able to learn a lot about traditional Thai cuisine, how different dishes were really made, within the comfort of shades, clean walkways, and cooling fans (which emit sprays of water out – used a lot in large public areas with lots of walking space i.e. amusement parks).

“Kwan-riam” is a family place where you can eat delicious, cheap food in a relaxed atmosphere, without having to travel so far out from the heart of Bangkok city (I only had to travel 20 minutes by car on the motorway to the market from my mum’s house in Srinakarin)

The location is by the “Saen Saeb” river between Soi Serithai 60 and Soi Ramkhamhaeng 187.

– Izzy

“Kwan-riam Floating market” – a brand new floating market experience: when contemporary meets modern day Thai – part 1


(on their ‘boat service’ with “Ah-tia” or Grand uncle. The fee was 20 baht per adult, for a 35 minute ride along the “Saen-saeb” river. This photo was taken on my second visit to the market)

“Kwan-riam” is a new floating market conveniently located within the vicinity of Bangkok, located by the “Saen Saeb” river between Soi Serithai 60 and Soi Ramkhamhaeng 187.

The market is right next to “Baang Peng Tai” temple. Therefore, if you were also looking for an authentic Thai temple experience, you can obtain it by visiting the temple next door for activities like setting free animals i.e. frogs, fish, or sight-seeing within the temple.

On the weekends, which is the only times the market is open, the temple also holds small fairs which includes stalls selling toys for kids or small Thai souvenirs.

*The first picture above shows a view of the temple*

Because Kwan-riam market is so easily accessible i.e. not way outside the city, it is popular with Thai city people. Yet, not too crowded (might be because it has only been opened for a year and a half).

The best things about this market are definitely its cleanliness, abundant shades, the fact that it was not crazily busy, and that there are activities one could do rather than shopping.

One of those few activites include looking at animals (albeit a bit random).

ImageRight next to the area selling foods were cages and stalls containing giant turtles, pigs and of course, the prairie dogs as shown above. I wouldn’t neccessary put food and animals so close together, but the animals’ enclosures were quite well kept so that was more reassuring.


Cute piggies! The next day I went (my mum and I just couldn’t get enough of the market) the two pigs were still sleeping in the exact same place… Perhaps they always have a noontime nap?

ImageGiant turtles (You can now understand the ‘random’ part I meant)

And now onto the part people really read the post/my blog for… Food!

First item I bought (out of the many I was enticed by): Chinese style buns with filling or “Salabao“/”Baozi” in Mandarin.

ImageThe market had a variety of ‘specialty stores’ that have added new twists to popular or common foods to the Thai palate. For example, this store made “Salabao” or Chinese-style filled buns into cute little animal and cartoon shapes.

The buns shown above had sweet fillings such as taro, red bean and custard cream.ImageThe buns shown on the left had savory fillings, most commonly which is pork. From far left: (all kinds of pork fillings) BBQ pork, pork floss, minced pork. The middle ones with the yellow smiley face was the bun which I bought, because it contained the famous new filling that I have never tried: lava filling. The filling was custard cream with salted duck eggs (not appetizing-sounding to Westerners, but salted duck eggs are an Asian food fetish. They are tossed into everything from salads, rice-porridge to sweets)

Image‘Contemporary Chinese-style buns’ conclusion? Very yummy. They did not scam customers on high buns to filling ratio, despite the low-price. However, I am yet to try the other flavours.

The “lava” buns were genuinely lava-like. The custard filling literally explodes in your mouth with its sweet and slight savoury flavour. Definitely worth 18 baht (typical price for Chinese-style buns) for a special kind of dessert.

Note on the flavours of the “lava” bun: I would have liked it if they had used less white sugar, condensed milk and included more salted duck eggs which were slightly overwhelmed by the sweetness. Of course, that would make for a more expensive bun that normal people or ‘sugar-lovers’ (as I call them) may not find particularly appealing.

ImageBefore we cross the “Saen-saeb” river to the otherside of the market, we have got three or four ‘boat restaurants‘ selling typical Thai foods e.g. noodle soup. But there was this restaurant that really impressed with its whole grilled scallops in shells, huge shrimps, etc.

I forgot to mention that there were two parts to the market, separated by the Saen-saeb river. The first side which you enter is adjacent to the temple and contained food stalls, fresh produce, and most of the animals and merchandise (and also the OTOP ‘One Tumbon One Product – a campaign to support Thai local produce. Tumbon means community’ stores selling all sorts of traditional Thai ornaments and products).

The food stalls and restaurants on either side basically sell the same foods/produce, by the same owner probably. Just depends which side of the river you prefer to do your shopping.

ImageI was quite intrigued by this fruit which I have never seen before; the fruit was a rare variety of “rose-apples” or “Chompoo” in Thai. This “rose-apple” variety was called “Nam Dorgmai” which means “flower water” or nectar, known for a sweetness atypical of “rose-apples”.

“Rose-apples” are another healthy Thai fruit. I call them ‘healthy’ because as with other fruit they come packed with nutrients, but in ‘packages’ of high fiber and water with very little sugar (unlike this “flower water” special variety pictured above). Fiber (soluble and insoluble) is important in maintaining a healthy digestive tract, cholesterol and blood-sugar levels in your body.

“Rose-apples” are another under-rated Thai fruit with respectable amounts of nutrients and antioxidants, but are overshadowed by their sweeter, hence, more delicious friends like oranges, apples, pomegranates (the craze right now).

ImageAnother food I have never seen before. This was a contemporary take on the popular Thai dessert – “Kanom Krok“. Kanom Krok normally consists of coconut milk, (light) coconut milk (the first water of the coconut), flour and palm sugar.

What they did here however, was turned the batter into a savoury one, and put a whole lot of seafood in. Judging from the colour of the batter, it seems they have included eggs into the mix as well. (a good idea to help all the fillings hold shape). They also pour a lot of clear liquids, which looked a bit like oil on top while cooking, and therefore was not very appetizing for me. Unfortunately, we did not try the “Seafood Kanom krok”.

However, definitely worth a test of flavours – the price was very reasonable, and look at how much seafood they stuff into each piece of “Kanom Krok”: a whole shrimp or a squid ring!

One of the vegetarian options at the market (which my mum immediately jumped at):

ImageGrilled mushrooms. Each stick was definitely stuffed with a whole lot of fresh mushrooms, and for just the price of 20 baht per stick! There was an array to choose from: shiitake, enoki, orengi, honey fungus etc. Comes served with a sweet and spicy sauce (Thais’ favourite flavours).ImageDefinitely vertiable whole mushrooms. I didn’t worry about the hygiene because they were thoroughly cooked on the grill (although the mushrooms still retained crunchiness – these types of mushrooms take a lot of cooking to mush them up, unlike something like portobello). What slightly bothered me however, was the fact that the mushroom juices with some of their nutrients were wasted as they dripped into the grill, and that oil was slathered on top to replace the fluids lost. Nonetheless, I saw that they did not use that much oil, but also brushed a bit of marinating sauce on top to keep the mushrooms moist. So the minerals, vitamins and definitely fiber were not all lost.

All in all, one of the lowest-calorie alternatives at the market.

WARNING! The following image is not most suitable for Muslims and vegans:

ImageI just had to take a picture of that pork simply plopped on top of that stall table. I have never seen a whole pork at a market before (although half of the meat was already gone). The stall was selling “roast pork” Traang-style. It is a pretty natural food (simply pork with a bit of seasoning, and no added oil), although because the skin is left on while cooking, it may have more fat than a lean piece of ham.

Note: Traang is a province in Thailand.

Then another thing I have never seen on sale in an open-air market:

ImageWhole salted fish. Of course, I have seen fresh fish being sold before (laid on top of mounds of ice), but these salted/cured fish looked so fresh (head and all still on). I would later find out from my aunty that these cured, sun-dried fish are normally bought to later be grilled, and often eaten as a side-dish with rice porridge. As long as they have been heavily cured, and will be thoroughly cooked at home, then they should be pretty bacteria-free by the time the fish reaches our plates.Image

On to the ‘floating boat restaurants’. Firstly, let me make it clear that this market is not an ‘authentic’ Thai floating market. If you want to experience the traditional ‘old lady floating along on a boat in a nice traditional outfit to offer you some fresh produce’, this is not the place. You would better visit somwhere like the popular “Ampawa floating market” which is about a 2 hour drive from Bangkok. In fact, there are not even boat paddling action around here (apart from the arranged group boat rides up and down the river).

Like I said, the market is more like modern-day Thai people’s take on the floating market.

The boat restaurants were tied to the dock (saves a lot of energy wading around).

This was one of them: a restaurant selling “Kao-chae” or “soaked rice”. The dish consists of cooked rice ‘soaked’ in cold jasmine water (water that has had jasmine flowers soaked in them) served with a variety of side dishes i.e. dried fish, shrimp paste balls, caramelized coconut meat. Most of them salty and sweet. This is a rice-porridge-like dish most suitable for a hot country like Thailand.

Image“Kao chae” or soaked rice was a favourite of mine. The water soaked rice was both refreshing, through both the calming smell of jasmine and the coldness of the water. They work really well with the sweetness in the side dishes (the sweetness makes the dish appealing to a younger palate, and also its lack of tough pieces of meat or veggies *although I never had a problem with veggies as a child!)Image“Kao-chae” is often associated with royalty (was a popular dish in the palaces). The colourful sweets on the right are “Kanom Alua” – not too sweet, but come packed with the chewy and softness of rice flour and light coconut milk mixture. Kind of like marzipan, but definitely not as rich. Also flavoured with jasmine essence so fragrance of the flower definitely exudes with each bite.ImageWe passed by a noodle shop, mixed with a “pad-thai” shop (at least I’m sure most readers will be well acquainted with this Thai dish). Other than dining on the shores, one can also elect to dine on the rafts where the restaurant boats are docked right next to. When coming to Thailand, ‘dining on water’ or at a restaurant by a river, is a must-do. The breeze is light, the view is not boring, and you can always feed leftovers to the fishies! (which would later become your next meal) Just kidding (that will dirty the streams). Bigger restaurants sell fish pellets for customers too.

I forgot to mention that at the market they also sell food for feeding fish in the river too i.e. bread or pellets.


I’ve never seen people making fish cakes before, so it was interesting to see the process as I walked by this restaurant (At the market, they would openly showcase their kitchen, and how some of the traditional Thai foods are made. An eye-opener for city people like me).

Witnessing how much oil goes into each fish cakes, I will be off them for a while.. (I had thought the cakes were simply pan-fried)

Note: the oil is nearly black because at food stalls, oil is reused in order to save on costs. Deep-frying is expensive! I totally understand the store owners.

Another kind of animal on show that was located next to the areas of ‘on-river’ restaurants: fowls and ducks. ImageSwans.ImageEuropean geese called “Pomeranian geese”. They looked like ducks but three times bigger.ImageThey also had seats and benches on the raft next to the closure where you can eat and watch geese playing at the same time (I swear, it would definitely not be as boring as watching lions that are about 2 km away sleep at the zoo. These geese were always in action, whether it would be drinking, swimming, eating, diving, etc.)ImageThen we passed by this shop selling all kinds of rice noodle dishes. These were “Guaw tiao lord” often eaten with a sauce with a base of sweet soy sauce.

I’ve never eaten “Guaew tiao lord” or rice noodle roll in this style before. It had looked so appetizing and fresh that I immediately bought it (they also came with boiled duck eggs which are my favourite). Basically, they put all the toppings normally used as fillings in ‘rice noodle rolls’ on top of the noodles. A very good idea because they look so much more appetizing as compared to plain white rolls of noodles. (The noodles themselves also had dried shrimps within which was something I’ve never seen before). The fillings that were used as toppings instead include: dried shrimps, chinese sausage slices, tofu, lightly boiled mung beans (at least they included some veggies), a bit of lettuce, ground pork, fried minced garlic, and garnished with chopped coriander and half a duck egg.

ImageAll for the cost of only 50 baht (which is sort of normal for the amount of food given…) The same dish was served in red clay boats bowls, for those wishing to dine at the restaurant (I had a cold that day so did not want to use bowls at the restaurants which may not be particularly hygienic). However, I recommend dining fresh where they can heat up the sweet and salty black sauce poured on top of the noodles. The noodles are much better eaten that way (warmer, and the noodles becomes softer)

It was 50 baht that was quite filling and nutritious (not enough veggies though).

Other than the skewered mushrooms, the take-home foods we bought include: Thai chive dumplings (which I forgot to take photos of) – also a vegetarian dish which my mum absolutely commended, steamed coconut fish or “Hor-mok”, very sweet green-skinned mangoes, and the highlight would definitely be (seemingly typical) cakes that were only 39 baht per piece!

This is about a dollar to a dollar fifty per slice in countries like New Zealand or USA.

ImageI was very puzzled by how they could make genuine, Western style cakes at such a low price. We talked to the lady and she claimed that they used quality ingredients and that they do not get a lot of profit from the desserts they sell. “You cannot sell them anymore expensively here” was what she had said.

But anyway, we decided to try the very yummy looking sponge cake with fruit and egg-free options, banoffee pie and chocolate cake for my mum.

After tasting the cakes, I believe I have learnt their secret of low cost. They had used a very high ‘cream’ to sponge cake ratio in their cakes. The sponge cakes tasted alright (quite fluffy), however, the cream was definitely not the kind I have had in New Zealand. I believe the ‘cream’ they had used was a mixture of vegetable shortening and a bit of cream, whipped to the point where they are very fluffy and full of air, hence giving the cakes the appearance of being filled with a large volume of cream. The flavours and textures were all there: incredibly soft and not too sweet. The cream was not full-bodied, but very light, and biting into the cake was like biting into clouds of candyfloss that was not overwhelmingly sweet.

The cakes would be perfect if only the cream was not mostly vegetable shortening which is incredibly detrimental to your health as most of them (including margarine) contain trans fat. You would be better off eating genuine cream which at least contains some nutrients from cow’s milk such as calcium and vitamin B’s.

The other food we bought home was “Hormok” or steamed coconut fish:


“Hormok” was a favourite dish of mine as well, because of the delicious creaminess you get from the combination of coconut milk, eggs and ground up fish flesh.

Basically, it is ground up, mashed fish mixed in with coconut milk, eggs, chillies, other flavourings. Also included are a bit of veggies like cabbage (I chose “Yor” leaves which is like spinach, but have a slight bitter flavour), and seafood like either fillets of fish, or shrimps.

I thought I’d end the post with a nice image of a street dog, finding sanctuary at the floating market. As you can see from the image, this market is incredibly clean, unlike your typical Thai “fresh produce” market. It is more hygienic than the streets out there. No wonder, the dog looked so comfortable sleeping underneath the bench!


Stay in tune for part 2 of my “Kwan-riam” floating market adventure!


Taking a stroll down the Thai protestors’ headquarters – free ‘Thai-style’ salad and the famous grilled chicken restaurant

In front of the Thai government’s ‘Whitehouse’. Judging from the protestors’ use of the Whitehouse’s fence as a clothing hanger, it is obviously no longer operating.

First of all, let me make it clear that I am one heck of a cagey kiddo. I am not one of the most adventurous people you will meet. So, what one earth was I doing today strolling through Bangkok’s infamous protesting grounds that have been occupying the news flash lately?

The answer is simple. I was lured there by the promise of food. Alright, the kiddings aside: through a series of miscommunication with my brother, I had the understanding that we were going out to lunch at the Okinawan restaurant with my aunts, mum and my brother’s friends. Turns out we were actually going to the protesting grounds in “Rajdamnern” district to let my brother do some sightseeing before he flies back to the States (and the dinner was in the evening instead).

By the time I realized where I was going it was too late. I was already stuck in the car. The day before, I had told my mum that I did not want to go to the protesting headquarters, but she managed to trick me into going!

My brave aunt – mother of two and regular protest marcher.

(Above in the distant is the ‘monument of democracy’)

We started off at one of the most dangerous point in the demonstration area. This was where some of the fatal exchanges of gunfire between the protestors and the police had occured.

My aunt was acting as the super-chilled tour guide to my brother, mum and me.

I was scared witless the whole time driving up to the entrance of the protesting grounds – going past the bunkers gave me chills.

One of the first ‘confiscated’ landmarks we walked past, once we got out of the car was the Thai ‘White house’.


Of course, the highlight of the day for me would be the food, rather than the enthralling experience of walking through a ‘revolutionary protesting ground’. Whilst sightseeing, we encountered a ‘food truck’ – more accurately a ‘free food giving’ truck for anyone walking by within the fenced off protesting area: hungry revolutionaries.

Kind auntie smiling for the camera.

Vegetarian foods – sponsored by the ‘Righteousness Army’ (translated from “Gongtap-tam”) a sort of passive, Buddhist sect of the protesting groups. I even saw a couple of female monks chilling underneath the marquees within the area. Not the first time a passive religious group becomes involved in a political protest.

But anyway, that day they were giving out “Indian salad” or “salad-kaeg” (despite the name, I would still calll it a Thai-take on salad).


The “Indian salad” consisted of the usual salads component – lettuce, shredded carrots, coleslaw, cherry tomatoes; but what makes the dish distinct is the presence of the  boiled egg, fried tofu and signature sweet peanut sauce that is generously lathered on top.

Peanut sauce, boiled egg, fried tofu.

The peanut sauce is mostly made of chopped roasted peanuts (they must also be ‘dry-sauteed’ in a hot pan before as well to achieve the slightly burnt taste), coconut milk, sugar (most of the time palm sugar) and chili to your tastebuds’ level of tolerance.

Looking at how fatty and sweet the special ‘Thai’ salad dressing is, this salad may not be the healthiest one out there (cannot compare to Japanese of course. I also had tuna salad at an Italian restaurant recently, and could easily distinguish the differences in oiliness in Japanese and European style cooking). However, this still would be a better alternative to vegetable oil-laden mayo or super creamy dressings like ‘Thousand island’.

The sauce can be easily reduced in the amount of sugar, coconut milk used and still obtain the delicious mildly sweet and hot flavour distinctive of the salad, along with goodness of a bit of peanuts (vitamin E, good essential oils and fibre).


Another dish on menu by the “Tamma-army” was boiled rice porridge.


After the brief surprise salad stop (3 s’s in a row, boo-yah), we continued through the camps, down the lane of sporadic bunkers made of tyre and sandbags, street gift shops selling souvenirs for the movement (or in other words,revolutionaries’ gear – only found in Thailand), makeshift mosquito nets where people stay overnight (they also did this really clever thing of stapling together snack packets to create a heat reflector made of foil), and food stops where charitable kitchens were cooking up fuel for revolution, all this within the vicinity of the demonstrators’ grounds.

UN headquarter in Thailand.

We walked out off one of the fenced off areas to see the UN building of Thailand (And by the way, this camp that we walked out from was planted right outside the Royal Thai Army headquarter… Once again, typical Thai. This is what you call real daredevils. Good thing we went on a good day)

But most importantly, as we walked out from the camp areas, the place we were met with that had caught our eyes the most was none other than the famous, long-standing, grilled chicken restaurant “Likit roast chicken”.

We decided it was time for a break from our sightseeing (I quickly seconded the proposal with a jittery raise of the hand), and so we settled with trying out the infamous roast chicken:


This was the order of a ‘whole roast chicken’.

The roast chicken which turned out to be slightly dry. That’s the thing with chicken. It is such a lean, low-fat source of protein (if you choose the right part, and also without skin) that making it delicious to the fat-loving people can be quite a chore.

I hope the fact that the meat was a bit tough indicated it wasn’t really a hormone-flooded, six-weeks old factory raised chick, but actually locally sourced, and perhaps had been someone’s pet (probably not the last part) but what I meant was a backyard raised chicken.

I would go ahead and claim that the second best thing they are known for: “Som-tum” or spicy Thai papaya salad was the no. 1 pageant queen on that dining table stage.


My beloved brother’s order of the super delicious “Salted duck egg som-tum” (only beloved because of the circumstance). The name was not appetizing; I would normally only associate salted duck eggs with Chinese food i.e. stir fry or rice porridge (a porridge staple for the Chinese), and have not really tried many dishes where the saltiness of duck eggs were used to compliment spicyness in Thai cuisine (Apart from in this dish that had crab meat stir-fried with minced salted duck eggs).

Anyway, the saltiness borrowed from the salted duck eggs was a good change from the saltiness of fish sauce (which can sometimes be overwhelmingly fishy and pungent), and the salad was not too spicy nor salty. However, as my aunt pointed out, the salads here are made quite sweet. Possibly another reason why I like the salads here so much; I am a self-confessed sweet-n-savoury food addict. It isn’t so much an obsession but more a disposition; I would choose a hot and sour stir-fry over some deep-fried battered foods for sure. (Sugar over fat. I am only half human!)

Seen in little cylindrical baskets is sticky rice, which is normally steam cooked in the baskets they were served in (with a banana leaf placed at the bottom to prevent sticking, and sometimes lined with parchment paper/plastic)


(Top right: my aunt wearing her activist shirt) Then we also ordered the most gigantic fish ball I have ever seen, the dish was called the fishballs that “in this life you must at least try once”. To be honest, this dish still didn’t impress me as much as the spicy salad (still holding place): the balls were mediocre and slightly bland, in fact. My aunt said the fishballs were a bit too ‘fishy’ which my brother replied sort of achieved the restaurant’s purpose in claiming that the only main ingredient in their fishballs were ground fish meat.

Just to make it clear to those who don’t know: fish balls are not literally fish balls. Instead, they are steamed (or sometimes fried) fish meat that has been ground, cooked, squeezed dry of any juice, usually mixed in with a bit of flour i.e. tapioca (the amount of flour : fish ratio depends on the budget), seasoning, then rolled into balls. *Same process with chicken, pork balls.


We also ordered another ‘som-tum’ dish since they were pretty well-known for their ‘som-tum’ “tumming” skills as well (“tum” means “pound” or the process of making “som-tum”, meanwhile, “som” means orange. Don’t ask why). This other ‘som-tum’ dish, a “roasted pork neck som-tum” was one I have never tried. The ‘roasted pork neck’ did not indicate that they chuck the entire ‘pork neck’ into the dish, but instead, they came in thin fatty slices of pork pieces.

They also make a “vegetarian” version of “som-tum” where they use soy sauce instead of fish sauce (which mum ordered). I was very glad they could make something for mum, which some restaurant may have issues with. It also tasted delicious (a bit better than the real thing because it was not as fishy).


Here’s a closer look at the fishballs – it’s hard to believe these are purely made of ground fish. I guess they are like “surimi” but in a ball shape.


And this is “Chicken ribs soup” served in a traditional Thai hot pot. The hole in the middle is for hot air to rise up from the fire lit at the bottom of the pot. The soup was quite salty, and spicy as well (I swear, this shop is really pro with spicy foods). It contained typical tom-yum herbs and spices e.g. galangal, chili, kaffir lime leaf. The most notable flavours however were from sliced shallots, chillies and some lemongrass. There were also some delicious pieces of catfish in the soup as well.

That’s what I like about ‘non-sea fish’ or ‘freshwater fish’ because I know that most of them are sustainably produced. Or their farming have not caused noticeable damage thus far…


Close up of the “salted duck egg som-tum”.


Then we continued on our trail of revolutionary adventure (these were the mosquito nets I was talking about, which people slept under. The foil made from crisp bags thing seemed to have not caught on with this camp).


My brother – armed with a samsung smartphone.


Next to the “Royal Thai Army”.


Some hand-made propaganda.


A satellite signal receiver amongst sleeping tents.

Other than that, we strolled around the areas outside of the protesting camps (near the ‘monument of democracy’) which housed street markets selling (you guessed it) demonstration souvenirs. By the end of the three-hour adventure, my brother ended up with two t-shirts and a whistle shaped like ‘Thailand’. By the end of the day, I developed the aspiration to try out new varieties of “som-tum”, but most importantly, was glad to have a comfortable car to climb back into, to escape the hotness of the sun and atmosphere. I truly admire those people with a revolutionary mind and strong-willed passion.


The Okinawan living – Secret to long life is in their food? (“Nirai Kanai” Japanese-Okinawan restaurant review)

Two nights ago I finally made a visit to the “Okinawan” style Japanese restaurant near my house here in Thailand. This visit co-incided with my newfound interest in ‘Blue-Zone living’, which stemmed from a recent introduction to the ‘Okinawan diet’.

‘Blue-Zone living’ is a term used to describe the lifestyle of long-living populations across the globe in areas dubbed as the ‘Blue Zones’ by researchers of this phenomena. One of the places deemed as part of the ‘Blue Zone’ is none other than in an area in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

The fact that 10% of the world’s population of centennians live in the Ryuku islands of Okinawa Prefecture, made me really quite interested in whether their eating habit/diet play a role in their elongated lifespan.

I have also been a crazy Japanese foodie eversince arriving back to Thailand, where like in most places where “Thai” are in most street corners, Japanese restaurants here will bombard you everywhere you turn (I am exaggerating a bit. They are only most populated in my area of ‘Thonglor’ or the ‘Japan Zone’ of Bangkok). But the most important factor that has influenced my Japanese addiction is the fact that chefs here are top-class (might not have graduated from Cordon Bleu, but Thais have a gift for cooking, I swear).

With such abundance of Japanese (both the people and the food), there’s no wonder that on my street there would somehow exist a Japanese restaurant specializing in Okinawan cuisine!

Entrance to the restaurant
An atmosphere of your typical Japanese countryside exudes

The decor and atmosphere of the restaurant was impressively Okinawan, but what about the food?

Gyutataki – Japanese style grilled beef

(Very typical order from my brother).

This wasn’t a part of their ‘Okinawan-style’ food menus, but from my observation (going to Japanese every second day that is), ‘gyutataki’ is a fairly popular Japanese dish (present on the menu in most restaurants): Raw or slightly cooked thin slices of beef served with soury and sometimes spicy sauce, a sort of beef tartare.

I tried a piece of very chewy muscle filament (and truly believed our ancestors did the right thing in inventing the use of fire in cooking), and opted more for the side of the thinly sliced radish. You need a balance in everything (a life of Yin/Yang) including with food. When eating lots of meat, you’re going to need a lot of veggies or salads to counteract with the freeradicals in red meat (especially with beef). My dad has talked to many expert nutritionists, scientists, and all their opinions about beef converges to limiting its intake, because of the levels of toxins in them (certain chemicals released by the cow/bull when about to be slaughtered).

A tip for when eating red meat like beef steak is always couple it with a whole heap of salads, and perhaps wash the entire meal down with a glass of water and a capsule of vitamin C.


Second dish arrived shortly after. This time it was an Okinawan style stir-fry “Goya Chanpuru” – Goya (bitter gourd): bitter gourd, tofu, eggs and thin ‘shabu’ slices of pork. I like how they sauteed the entire thing using very little oil (unlike the Chinese who resolve to add even more oil on top of a dish like steamed vegetables). Instead, they probably used the moderate amount of fat emitted from the pork slices to prevent the dish from becoming too dry and bland. Twas very refreshing: The mild bitterness of bitter gourd worked together well with the sweetness from egg yolks in the eggs, and the lightness of the veggies complimented with the firm texture of tofu.

Bitter gourd were utilized in some of the dishes on their menu. I believe the Okinawan islanders’ love for bittergourd may have played a part in helping them manage diseases (that becomes more susceptible with age) like diabetes. Bitter gourd has a blood-sugar stabilizing property.

In fact, Okinawans are crazy about veggies. When you’re stuck on an island with limited resources, the last thing you would want to do is raise a cow that would soon wipe out all the grass in front of all your neighbours’ lawn, or would obliterate all the plant life that is needed to sustain life.

Plants which are much easier to take care of than animals have no doubt became a staple in the islanders’ diet (this also paralleles with other population groups within the Blue Zone whom are mostly isolated from the outside with limited resources. They are avid gardeners, self-sustainers, who obtain most of their calories from plant foods).

Despite its abundance of veggies, the Okinawan diet is not tailor-made for fat-phobic dieters:


A signature Japanese dish – tempura (a plate of deep fried battered veggies – one of the healthiest diet in the world!?). Of course, it all comes down to portion sizes and moderation.

This was a tempura made from special Okinawan seaweed called Mozuku. Nice and crispy. Using seaweed for deep fried batter makes much lighter veg tempura as compared to using i.e. carrots, sweet potatoes, etc. which resulted in a new and interesting texture.


Next, I ordered a natto dish! (I just had to do it). This time, it was a double dose of slime with some cooked okra mixed in with the already slimy enough fermented soybeans. Natto is another one of those ‘healthy’ staple of the Japanese. Chuck natto into anything and the dish becomes healthy! Afterall, they are trailed with such a bibliography of health benefits like cancer fighting properties.

Personally, I like the burst of slight saltiness tinged with mild sweetness that comes with each bite of the fermented soybeans. I don’t mind the slime much, having eaten more ‘extreme’ things out there i.e. regular intakes of fish eyes.


Grilled salmon (flesh from the belly)

The salmon belly is believed to be the most delicious part of the fish. It is also the fattiest part of the fish; full of the good fats – omega 3 fatty acids (including DHA) which is essential for your body functions, and great support for the brain functions of both old and young people. Other than this, salmon belly also has got a whole lot of collagen. Great for your skin, perfect for the ladies.

One of the main advertising ploy of this restaurant, other than ‘eating healthy’ of course, was ‘beauty’.

This brings me to the other component of Okinawan diet that is a protein – pork. The restaurant advertises its ‘Okinawan’ braised pork dish as being rich in skin-plumping collagen.

We didn’t end up ordering any pork because we’ve just had an also very collagen rich (i.e. very fatty/gelatinous) Chinese-style hog leg (the one that comes with mantou buns… drools) for lunch (that Chinese restaurant by the street served the most delicious Chinese food i.e. not too oily that I have had in Thailand).

Pigs are one of the easiest animals (for meat) to be raised because they are not selectively vegetarian or vegan. Will basically eat whatever you put in their face. Kind of like people. And so I suspect this is why islander people opt for pork and fish for their protein. One does not require a large plant crop to be raised to sustain them, and the other is basically “free food” from the generous sea.

Of course, both are eaten in very moderate amounts because they are hard to find. (Unlike in present day where everything is so available, and ironically in decline as a result; we are simply eating way too much of protein, too much of the bad things i.e. junk, refined carbs, and not enough of the good things i.e. veggies).

More pictures of the restaurant. Immensely popular amongst Japanese foodie and young people attempting to be healthy. We sat inside (where the aircon is).


Next, dad had to order his favourite: sweet potatoes. This time we ordered a special ‘Korean sweet potato’ which was purple. I’m sure lots of people have tried purple, other than orange sweet potato, but I’ve never had one that is entirely purple (not just on the outside)! I am guessing these potatoes would be very full of colour-indicated phytonutrients.

On another note: a major component in the Okinawan diet other than veggies is sweet potato (most likely to be Japanese rather than Korean sweet potatoes though). According to wikipedia, Okinawans obtain 69% (circa 1959) of their daily calories from the starchy vegetable. This means sweet potatoes were the main component of all their meals each day: Roughly calculated to be something like… sweet potatoes instead of toast or cereal for breakfast, sweet potatoes instead of rice at lunch, and some more sweet potatoes for dinner.

Sounds boring right? But once you’ve had organically grown steamed ‘Asian’ sweet potatoes, you will be hooked. I am currently addicted to those delicious bundle of starch and fibre (they were so expensive in New Zealand, $6.99/kg hence sweet potatoes used to be a luxury for me) Sweet potatoes are super easy to prepare: just chuck in the steamer on high for 15 minutes tops and you’ve got nice, fluffy potatoes – a healthy, low-calorie source of fibre and carbohydrate to accompany your meal.


To end the meal, we had a spinach salad with bacon bits (typical Okinawa), cherry tomatoes, and topped off with a sweet creamy sauce (I suspect it composed mainly of dairy rather than mayo – good thing it wasn’t too creamy, but quite watered down. I can trust in the Japanese to never go too overboard with dairy *Also could be because dairy is expensive here in Thailand). The salad was also sprinkled with the everpresent component in Japanese dishes like soups or noodles, bonito fish flakes. Delicious seasoning that comes with added protein.

The spinach leaves looked like they could not be eaten raw, but they were actually fine to eat. Mature, spinach leaves are not very safe to eat, because they contain a certain level of oxalic acid which in large amounts can be poisonous to the body. I suspect these spinach leaves were of a larger-leaved variety of salad spinach.

Overall, we didn’t get to try as much an array of Okinawan style foods as we wanted because there were so many other yummy dishes to try. What I have gathered from looking at the menu and from tasting some of the samples is that, Okinawan style cooking does not utilizes much oil i.e. as shown in the appearance of the stir-fry dishes; their foods are quite unrefined and simple i.e. they did not undergo an elaborate process of preparation (nutrients can be lost along the way due to heat treatment and other cooking processes): stir-fried, grilled or pan-fried, and they featured lots of both soy products i.e. tofu, and veggies.

Okinawa uses some vegetables that may not be as customary in the mainstream Japanese cuisine i.e. sea grapes (type of seaweed), bitter gourd, okra, avocado. But these very nutritious foods combined with a unique islander lifestyle is what makes Okinawan living so healthful, even beyond the Japanese diet.

I for one, with my life-long veggie addiction will probably be making a trip down the street sometime again soon to try the ‘typical Okinawan’ (they wrote on the menu) dish of “nacho rice” – rice topped with minced pork, fried egg, slices of avocado and fresh veggies; and definitely more of their selection of delicious salads.


Boston Trip Day 2 – Au Bon Pain & Frozen Yoghurt Nutrition Review!

It was a warm day in Boston, we got up early in the morning to have a look at colleges. Then, we ended up in Cambridge Square. The surrounding architecture and shops were pretty cute; there were lots of tourists & ‘buskers’ that day.

It was time for brunch, so we headed over to… Au Bon Pain… That’s right, we came all the way to Boston to have Au Bon Pain (sigh).

Au bon pain

Endless selection of baked goods
Self-serve soup & bread station
Almonds & raisins on your oatmeal for free??

So, if you have never been to an Au Bon Pain in the States, you would be as surprised as I was. There was a vast range of dining selections and many of them were self-serve i.e. the baked goods, soup station, fountain drinks, coffee, etc. In Thailand, Au Bon Pain were not self-serve & had much less menu options. USA: the land of plenty.

And now, onto the nutritional reviews…

My brother’s option of Caprese w/ Chicken sandwich (1/2) + 12 Veggie Soup (small) $6.99.

Caprese w/ chicken sandwich = ciabatta bread + chicken breast + tomato + mozzarella cheese

Caprese w/ Chicken sandwich + 12 Veggie Soup

TASTE – The sandwich was predominantly bland. The only flavor coming through was pesto w/ a bit of cheesy mozzarella taste. The only good point was the softness of ciabatta bread.


The 12 Veggie Soup also tasted very average. There was not a lot of veggie flavor (despite there being 12 kinds), mostly of tomatoes + peas (?). Because I don’t really enjoy Western-style veggie soups that contain tomatoes & beans…


NUTRITION – 1/2 of the sandwich = 340 calories & the small 12 Veggie Soup = 120 calories. In total: 460 calories. An extremely low calorie yet nutritious lunch. How? Let’s start w/ the sandwich. This sandwich overall, is quite high in protein (21 g according to Au Bon Pain – as much as one 97 g chicken drumstick) of which comes from the dry chicken breast, mozzarella cheese & ciabatta bread. The chicken will not contribute much nutritionally other than vitamin B-6, cholesterol (some), & protein. Mozzarella cheese is considered one of the less fatty & high protein cheese (often made into cheese sticks snacks), it is an average source of protein (calories >> protein), but contains more calcium than milk of the same caloric value & also vitamin A. Ciabatta bread is pretty void of nutrients apart from traces of enriched iron, thiamine, vitamin Bs, etc. The small amounts of veggies like tomato & argula contribute little amounts of vitamin A & C. Judging from the ingredients used this sandwich does not contain that many nutrients. If the chicken & cheese were swapped out for salmon, cottage cheese & more veggies, the nutritional value would increase dramatically.

Because of the low-calorie & fat content, this sandwich gets a…


As I have mentioned, the 12 Veggie Soup is a little over 100 calories. This is typical of a vegetable soup; homemade ones will probably contain even less calories. Despite the healthy name, this soup contains very little minerals other than vitamin C (20%) & A (35%), according to the Au Bon Pain site. Perhaps because of the fact that non-fresh ingredients have been used (check the previous link to find out), like dehydrated potatoes & mushroom extracts.

*Tip on reading the ingredients label: 

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 2.58.21 PM

Most common ingredients are listed first. As you can see ‘diced tomatoes in juice’ comes right after ‘water’. It is basically canned soup… (tomatoes, tomato juice, citric acid, calcium chloride). Ingredients that make up less than 2% of the food is usually listed at the back of the list. 

Vitamin contents in vegetables & fruits tend to decrease dramatically from the time they have been harvested (check out this study) so in order to get the most nutrients from vegetable soups, use the freshest veggies. This soup doesn’t contain significant amounts of sodium (only 600 mg 25% of daily recommendations) nor protein (3 g) most of the calories come from carbohydrate (18g or 6% daily recommendations = ~3 rice cakes). Since it is easy to find more nutritious soups w/ similar amounts of calories (check out this >100 calories miso soup recipe), this soup will only get a…


My option was a Southwest Chicken Salad $7.49 

11328998_942705632416619_138914321_nRoasted chicken, fresh avocados, beans & corn salad w/ a side of fried wonton flakes
Picked out two different dressings to try out: Thai & Southwest vinaigrette dressing

TASTE – Overall, the avocado + corn + beans + roasted chicken combination made for a tasty salad. The chicken had a BBQ/tangy steak sauce sort of flavor, but was still on the bland side. For me, dressing was definitely needed. I picked out two dressings to try out: (being Thai) Thai dressing & Southwest vinaigrette dressing (both 160 calories). So, really the entire salad is ~510 calories. Because I didn’t touch the wonton flakes nor finished the entire salad, this probably took out around >100 calories.

As for the dressings, the Southwest vinaigrette dressing definitely went better w/ the salad (duh). It was tangy & sweet. The Thai dressing, which tasted more like peanut sauce definitely should only be eaten w/ the Thai salad.. It was very peanut-ty, sweet, a bit spicy; also a bit too starchy & had a slight Skippy’s taste, unlike in authentic recipes which use fresh roasted peanuts.


NUTRITION – This salad is quite nutritionally complete. It contains plenty of protein 31 g (60% daily recommendations), 43 g of carb (14% daily recommendation & 2x amount of carb in chicken caprese sandwich…How?? This salad’s serving size is 3x the sandwich’s weight. Ciabatta bread is quite an airy bread. The amount of carb listed also include those from fried wonton flakes & the beans & sweet corn). The salad also contains 12 g of fibre (almost 50% daily recommendation) & a whopping 320% of daily vitamin A, 45% of daily vitamin C, 20% iron & 10% calcium. Sound impossible? The ingredients of this salad all contains huge amounts of vitamins, such as romaine lettuce (great source of vitamin A), tomatoes (moderate vitamin A & C), black bean (good source of iron, magnesium & calcium) & avocado (vitamin C, Bs & lots of good fats). The amount of fat in the salad is moderate (16g or 25% daily recommendation) if you want to cut down on this, choose 0 fat balsamic vinegar because: 1. packet dressings will never contain healthy oil but something like canola or soybean (which are not good for you) 2. avocados should give enough fat needed to absorb fat-soluble nutrients from the salad. Another reason why this salad is healthy is because most of the ingredients used, other than black beans & dressing are fresh. Click here for more complete nutritional profile. In other words, this salad will not only count towards at least 1/2 of your daily vitamins intakes, it will definitely leave you filled up for long.


Perhaps someone could try this ‘Mike’s Pastry’ & let us know what it’s like. I’ve seen many people around Boston carrying Mike’s Pastry boxes around…

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Once again, we visited Boston’s Copley Square.

Infront of the beautiful Romanesque Trinity Church

Mostly though, we were at Copley for Newbury Street which was only a few minutes walk from there. Newbury Street is like Boston’s 5th Avenue with plenty of luxurious brand stores & chic restaurant cafés which lined two sides of the street for several blocks towards Boston Common

The day before, we visited Newbury when most the shops (except for froyo perhaps) were already closed (~8 pm). Best time to visit Newbury is ~5 pm or dinnertime, when the sun is setting & the streets are bustling.

We browsed the shops for a while before settling for dinner @Papa Razzi – stylish yet affordable Italian restaurant.

Entrance & outdoor seatings
We sat on the second floor of interior seatings
The atmosphere was great
The atmosphere was great – luxurious in an old school sort of way
For some reason, Pellegrino (sparkling water) were available at every table
Papa Razzi Menu
Papa Razzi Menu

So, I was super impressed w/ Papa razzi even before the meal arrived. All the waiters/waitresses were very friendly & considerate. They offered appetizer bread & continually filled our glasses w/ water. Despite the fact that our waiter mistook me for a guy: “how are you doing, gentlemen?” (Recently shaved my hair for a Childhood Cancer Research Foundation) He later repeatedly stressed female pronouns when addressing me i.e. “What would she like to have?” Also, at the end the manager personally came over to ask us how our meal went. Great service. What about the food?

Warm italian bread w/ spicy olive oil
Lukewarm, moderately soft sourdough bread w/ spicy olive oil
Very tasty spicy olive oil
Very tasty spicy olive oil
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Extra Virgin Olive oil

They didn’t even charge us when we asked for a second bread plate! Even replaced the spicy olive oil tub w/ a new one for us – wasteful but great service.

Here are our orders:

Above: Piccante Pizza & below: Panzanella Salad

Oak-fried Pizza: Piccante $13.99  

TASTE – The pizza was not too cheesy nor bread-y. The crust was soft, soaked in fresh tomatoes & very light. The rims were crispy & fluffy. Italian sausage used was also well-seasoned (pretty salty but not overdone). Cheese used was not oily nor salty, perhaps premium mozzarella was used.


NUTRITION – Originally, pizza is not an unhealthy dish, especially if healthy carbs have been used i.e. spelt crust pizza Fast-food chains have put a bad light on it like they had w/ Chinese food & Doner Kebab. Pizzas contain as much carbs & fat as your average sandwich w/ cheesy or saucy fillings. A tip for eating pizza healthily is putting lots of topping on each piece to fill up so you won’t be reaching for one piece after another i.e. this recipe. This pizza contained some Italian sausage pieces & pepperoni, but most of the toppings were mozzarella & fresh tomatoes. Italian sausage contains about as much calories as other sausages like bratwurst or beef/pork (other than chicken or turkey) but it may contain more fat. Salami on the other hand tend to contain more fat than other sausages & definitely much more salt (an average serving of 28 g 3 pieces or ~100 calories may contain as much as 30% of daily recommendation for sodium). Most people will probably finish 2/3 of this size pizza. This means they would probably take in ~1060-1160 calories, ~40.5 g fat (61% daily fat intake), 92 g carbohydrate (~32% of daily recommendation) & 47 g protein. In terms of micronutrients: significant source of calcium, vitamin B-12, some vitamin B-6, iron, small amounts of magnesium, vitamin D & A. Chopped tomatoes will also provide significant source of Vitamin C (~1/2 daily intake) & lycopene (an antioxidant thought to be even more potent than vitamin C), which only become more bioavailable w/ heat. If you do eat the entire pizza you will take in a bit more nutrients, but possibly up to 1,590-1,740 calories (80-90% daily calorie intake)     

Because of the high caloric value, I can only give this vitamin B, calcium & lycopene-rich pizza a…


Close-up of pansanella salad
Close-up of Panzanella Salad

Insalate: Panzanella $8.99

TASTE – So, this salad was definitely a rip-off. $9 for a couple pieces of capers & mush of goat cheese that’s been mashed into dressing? However, the dressing was pretty on point. It had a strong unmistakable goat cheese (Vermont) taste that was salty, sour & cheesy. For me, it was too overwhelmingly creamy. Although the salad was tasty, it wasn’t very true to the menu listing, which said it also contained baby greens, torn foccacia & red wine vinaigrette. The 3 pieces of torn focaccia tasted like croutons & I couldn’t tell the vinaigrette that went into the goat cheese mush was supposed to be red wine.


NUTRITION  So, if there were actually baby greens in this we would have gotten much more iron & calcium! But we will have to just make do w/ romaine lettuce. First of all, this salad will probably contain max of 300 calories (possibly less) with virtually all the calories coming from goat cheese. Goat milk products have been hailed as the better dairy alternative – why? Goat cheese contains less calories (less fat, saturated fat & protein), no cholesterol, easier to digest (less lactose, smaller fat globules) & has a higher concentration of micronutrients like calcium, vitamin Bs & D (even then this is still not a significant amount). So, personally I still wouldn’t think of goat cheese or other milk product as a health product. This salad probably contains about 1 1/2 cup of romaine lettuce which is almost nothing but water & ~100% of daily recommendation of Vitamin A (that is pretty much present in almost all other plant foods), small amounts of tomatoes, shredded focaccia & capers ( in such small amount they don’t really amount to any nutritional value). Although this salad is not nutrient-dense, it is still low calorie, hence…


Why not do a review for the appetizer sourdough bread & olive oil too?

TASTE – Despite being a sourdough, the bread was soft. They weren’t warm enough though. Spicy olive oil was a new & positive experience for me. It may have been chili oil mixed w/ olive oil – the chili was definitely stronger than olive taste. The olive oil they had at each table was Extra Virgin with very strong olive taste.


NUTRITION – Olive oil has been glorified for years as the pillar of the perfect mediterranean diet. I think olive oil is overrated. I believe what really makes mediterranean diet healthy is its emphasis on vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish & use of herbs/spices to flavor food (this short lecture about olive oil is pretty interesting & amusing; this article talks about olive oil’s nutrition). Extra Virgin Olive oil (high quality & expensive) does contain 70-80% polyphenols in its fat content, but in fact, foods like tea or red wine can contain even greater concentration of this antioxidant for less calories. The other LDL (bad cholesterol) & blood-sugar lowering fatty acids present like MUFAs or PUFAs can also be found at higher amounts in i.e. sunflower oil or safflower oil & oily fish (respectively). It’s not clear what was in the spicy olive oil but from the light taste, not much Extra Virgin Olive oil was present. Extra Virgin Olive oil they provided probably contained more healthy fats (the only nutrient olive oil contain). Sourdough bread may be better for your blood-sugar than other common breads (it has lower sugar content because of yeast fermentation) but in terms of nutrition, it is virtually the same as other white bread – (average serving of 64 g) 12% daily intake of iron, traces of magnesium, vitamin B-6, only 6% daily recommendation of fibre & 8 g of protein (<x2 serving of ham). When matched w/ normal olive oil; one olive oil bread basket serving (2 small slices ~64 g & 1 tbsp olive oil) will probably have a nutritional profile of ~300 calories, 8 g protein, moderate amounts of polyphenols & iron.


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Newbury Ben&Jerry w/ their creepy Ben&Jerry figures @the store front...
Newbury Ben&Jerry w/ their creepy Ben&Jerry figures @the store front…
Cute interior
Cute interiors
More interior pics
More interior pics

So, we didn’t actually get ice-cream. Because we like frozen yoghurt so much we went all the way back to Cambridge to buy some.

J.P. Licks Ice Cream, Yogurt, Coffee 

Nutra Sweet Amaretto & Nutra Sweet Vanilla w/ Arizona Iced Tea
NutraSweet Amaretto & NutraSweet Vanilla w/ AriZona Iced Tea

NutraSweet Amaretto + vanilla (kiddy size) $3.30

TASTE – The Amaretto flavor was definitely very tasty. I’d confused ‘Amaretto’ w/ ‘Morello’ (a type of sour cherry) so I’d thought Amaretto was cherry flavor… In fact, Amaretto was Italian alcohol. Nevertheless, it barely contained alcohol flavor & even tasted a bit like pickled cherry that I had presumed. Vanilla flavor was average. Both flavors had been sweetened w/ NutraSweet rather than sugar, hence they had strange sweetener tinges.


So, I did the good ol’ assumption game and assumed that ‘NutraSweet‘ was the sweetener brand that uses stevia (that’s actually Truvia) simply based off the name (Nutra = nutritious? natural?)! In fact, NutraSweet contain aspartame which has gone through many researches that confirm its numerous health risks. 

NUTRITION – Most sugar-free frozen yoghurt average at ~100 calories per 100 g, which is probably the same size as the kiddy portion I got. This kiddy cup would have contained small amounts of calcium, protein, traces of vitamin Bs & other minerals. Unlike popular myths, frozen yogurt is not a health food since most brands include ingredients like cream, milk & definitely lots of sugar. In addition, comparing to normal yoghurt, it is more difficult to know whether or not the probiotics have survived the freezing process. A way to find out is to find “Live and Active Cultures” on the label or contact manufacturers. Because aspartame have been used & the small amount of nutrients present…


Diet AriZona iced tea, raspberry flavour

TASTE – Mostly bland & artificial.


NUTRITION – Diet AriZona uses the sweeteners: Sucralose & Acesulfame K. Researches on Sucralose has not shown many negative side effects, but no long-term studies have been done on this 0 calorie sweetener. Acesulfame K have shown slight carcinogenic effects on extreme doses (which humans cannot possibly consume) over extended period of time (on rats). Nevertheless, this product have been highly processed, contain additives to prolong shelf-life & the nutritional quality of tea or juice concentrate used = 0.


So, I felt J.P. Licks was a bit on the pricey side $3.30 for a kiddy cup that disappeared in 3 minutes! The sugar-free froyo I’d ordered were not that superb either. 80 cents for nuts + candy, $1 for fruits + sauces toppings. The service was average: servers were inattentive (I couldn’t even ask for toppings! Good for me; saved 80 cents), cashier was brash; the only helpful & friendly person was the owner. This could be because they were super busy (long line even at ~9pm) & they worked into the night (closes at 12am every night). I would recommend to just order their famous ice-cream & definitely not the sugar-free yoghurt range!!

Stay in tuned for Boston Trip Day 3!

– Izzy

Exploring the balance between Nutritious & Delicious.

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