Jurassic Tea Spot 隨便生活館

I did a write-up for Eater on this…but here are photos of the food. (Overbearing church people from my childhood who have a history on commenting on things like this — no I didn’t eat the blood cake. Not that I care anymore, though. Blood just isn’t my cup of tea)

The chicken cutlet was so great. Super juicy, though a bit heavy on the sauce. Pork over rice was solid. My eating buddy and I were debating whether or not it surpasses Tofu King in quality. Our conclusion: Tea Spot’s version is less intense and concentrated. Just as good though, just a different texture.

The stinky tofu was on point. I’d say it probably is one of my favorite versions out there right now. The stink level isn’t too crazy…it’s more of the quality of the tofu. Not too firm (unlike Lee’s) and not super soggy and sad.

Hah I get way too technical when it comes to Taiwanese.

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15301 Gale Ave
City of Industry, CA 91745

So I Spoke At NASA Today…

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Today I was invited by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to give a talk on Chinese food and culture with the estimable David R. Chan. The purpose was to pass on the love for Chinese food and the San Gabriel Valley… though I am still in slight shock as to the whole context of it all: me speaking to some of the world’s top rocket scientists. THESE PEOPLE FLY THINGS INTO SPACE AND I JUST WRITE ABOUT WHAT I EAT.

I hope people learned a thing or two about food. I know I definitely had some great takeaways …Mostly from the tour we got of the campus, that one informational video, and speaking to some of the guys who designed the Curiosity Rover.

There’s something irrefutably beautiful about science; unfortunately that beauty usually gets buried underneath all the technicalities. For me, science has always been this titanic piece of complicated knowledge that feels impossible to digest, let alone implement. But I suppose once you get the building blocks down, it becomes this wonderful magical power that can build and explore entire worlds — or take them down.

Engineering is as close as human beings will ever get to magic.

Within the last centuries we’ve figured out how to levitate giant bodies of metals and propel them across the world. We’ve created magical devices to help us talk and see each other without even having to be in the same room — let alone country. We’ve been able to cut people open and implant machines into their bodies. We’ve dissected the building blocks of life. We’ve blasted off car-sized machines onto Mars.

Seeing the ground zero of space exploration and the people behind it all was an incredibly inspiring and spiritual experience. It gave me context. It made my daily worries seem a bit petty. We’re just one mortal species on one moral planet in a solar system of planets and a universe of stars. Humanity might cease to exist if we continue our rate of growth and pollution, yet we’re here bickering about the stupidest things.

And bam, here are these guys trying to figure out life beyond us. What’s in the stars? What’s out there? Can we live out there? And more importantly, who are we?

I know I can be a generalist, overly sentimental, a bit too idealistic. I tear up every time after I see real video of the folks in Mission Control cheering after a successful landing. The power of teamwork. The power of knowledge. It’s something about the community effort, the universal joy, and that rare moment when humanity bonds together for a singular goal.

To those folks who invited me over and took the time to listen: thank you for having me. My appreciation for the sciences have increased ten-fold and I’m humbled down to my knees.

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Why Los Angeles Has The Best Chinese Food

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So a little bit of context before I copy & paste the beginning of my piece. Back in 2012, when I was first toying with the idea of freelance writing as a career, I started emailing Chandavkl after noticing his intense ability to crank out facts on Chowhound. A huge article on his eating feats later (he’s eaten at 6,500+ Chinese restaurants)…we started talking about N.Y. vs L.A. Chinese food.

I was living in N.Y.C at the time for college and was appalled at how — well — shitty everything tasted. In the Chinese food realm of course. David gave me some historical notes, a timeline on Chinese food in Los Angeles, and I let that sit in my inbox for awhile because it seemed like a huge feat to take on.

Finally — I’ve gotten around to writing that piece.

YAY

And shameless plug, for more on regional Chinese food in Los Angeles, I have a column on KCET Food where I do my best in highlighting as many of the Chinese provinces as I can find represented in this wonderful city. Happy eating.


 

How Los Angeles Became The Powerhouse For Chinese Food

When it comes to Chinese food, the conversation in urban centers of America has long moved past chow mein and into more nuanced arguments about variations of xiaolongbao. But even with cooking shows from icons Martin Yan and Ming Tsai—not to mention Julia Child’s confession that she’d “be perfectly happy with only Chinese food”—awareness didn’t reach its smoking point until the 2000s.

In 2006, travel show hosts Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern began highlighting Chinese on No Reservations and Bizarre Foods, respectively, showing folks firsthand what cuisine in China is actually like. In the same year, Los Angeles writer Jonathan Gold became the first food critic to win a Pulitzer Prize. Among his highlighted works: a tribute to the fleshy, cold chicken cuts at Chinese regional specialist Nanjing Kitchen.

In New York City, a slew of trendy Chinese places began to appear: BaoHaus for Taiwanese buns; Xi’an Famous Foods for Shaanxi noodles; Yunnan Kitchen and Lotus Blue for home-style chicken soup; Mission Chinese Food for modern Sichuan; and Red Farm for refined dim sum. They appealed to a clientele who either demanded a high level of hospitality, or were seeking out something new and “edgy.”

Now, New Yorkers think they know the real thing when it comes to Chinese food. It has been a topic of hot debate. A lot of folks like to cite Flushing, where there are some legitimate regional specialists. But when it comes to quality, it is Los Angeles that reigns supreme—yes, better than Flushing and Vancouver.

Read the piece here, on First We Feast

 

 

Other stuff I’ve written this week: Here’s What Californian Food In Taiwan Is Like

Lavender & Honey Espresso Bar

Goodness. This place is a dream. I’ve never been a fan of eating flowers, but Lavender & Honey has converted me with their whimsical aesthetics and ethereal lattes.

This Pasadena gem has honey lattes, salted lattes, and a lavender one. And that glorious piece of rye bread? Goat cheese spread with honey and lavender.

*swoons*

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1383 East Washington Boulevard,
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 529-5571

My Current Favorite Restaurants

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Totally late to the end of the year round-up game. BUT. I’ve decided to write this list for my friends who always ask me for my picks. I tend to skew towards Asian food with high-quality ingredients. Also, I’m the daughter and granddaughter of huge seafood fans…and so that theme is pretty consistent in my choices. My late grandfather apparently moved to Zhuhai in China just because he heard there was good seafood.

Please note that I am in no way implying that these are the best restaurants in Los Angeles. Far from it. Just my personal go-tos. I’m also feeling lazy, so I’ve put in links where applicable.

Chengdu Taste (Alhambra): classic Sichuan dishes. get the water-boiled fish, toothpick lamb/beef, and the mung bean noodles.

Szechuan Impression (Alhambra): newer, trendy Sichuan dishes. leshan cross-legged beef and suan ni bai ruo are heavenly.

Mokkoji (Arcadia): currently my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles County. amazing hot pot with meat quality that will blow your mind.

Yong Dong Tofu (Arcadia): this has been one of my top places since high school. sundubu jjigae. i haven’t found another place (not even in ktown) that does it better.

Sushi Gen (Little Tokyo): as my friend jasper taught me, you really have to sit at the bar.

Sugarfish (Studio City): solid. on the pricer side. it’s not super fancy sushi, but does the trick in terms of quality.

Tsurumaru Udon (Little Tokyo): handmade udon. everyone talks about marugame udon a couple blocks down. but tsurumaru is in the little tokyo shopping mall and is a) cheaper b) faster c) in my opinion, has better quality.

Pisces Sushi (Manhattan Beach): their chirashi bowl takes me to heaven. also, no one knows about it.

Bestia (Art District): italian. art district. everyone knows about it, it’s hard to get reservations, but well, well worth it for a more refined night out.

SQIRL (Silver Lake): kokohu rose brown rice bowl. farm-fresh ingredients. finally a brunch place that’s actually worth waiting in line for.

Cafe Gratitude (Hollywood): vegan and delicious. this is where i go after i do a long hike.

Fishing With Dynamite (Manhattan Beach): oysters. a place to impress out-of-towners who want classy with a beach vibe.

How To Motivate Yourself

It’s 5:05 a.m., I’m thoroughly jet-lagged from a turbulent flight back home to Los Angeles from Taipei, and the only thing I can think of is how inefficient and momentarily unmotivated I am. And so, as a coping mechanism, I’m writing a post on how I motivate myself… to motivate myself.

1. Ogle at successful people. I do this all the time. I make myself jealous of other people to motivate myself. Not jealous in a vindictive way, mind you. But jealous in a “wow, that’s fucking inspiring” type of way. Today my muse was Amal Clooney (thank you incessant coverage of the Golden Globes on every. single. website.) The other day, it was Elon Musk. When I see human beings doing extraordinary things, it gives me a little bit of a push…. because at one point, these extraordinary people with extraordinary resumes were ordinary people with no resumes. It’s all about willpower.

2. Read. I’m a daily victim of writer’s block. There are very few pieces I can crunch out smoothly without long, painful chunks of procrastination time and as a result, sometimes my writing comes out sounding just as chunky. Lately I’ve been devouring books like I do my food, and it’s done wonders for my writing. Reading and feeling other writers’ rhythms and cadences helps me strengthen my own. It’s inspiring when I read a well-written novel, because it makes me want to create something just as beautiful. It also keeps me painfully grounded.

3. Visualize your goals. As a freelancer, it’s undeniably easy to be broke and lazy. All I need to do is sit and do absolutely nothing. I don’t have a traditional boss to answer to on a daily basis and so the best way to insure that I don’t end up in the negative at the end of the month…is to keep a meticulous spreadsheet that tells me exactly how much I’m making, what my goals are money-wise, and how far I need to go. Same goes with broad, career-goals. I’ll write that down in a notebook. That visualization is always a energy booster.

4. Have daily intentions. My friend Andrew really helped me realize the importance of this. I like to try to have daily goals…because macro-goals are overwhelming and hard to chip away at in one day. Establishing small goals like “finish this article,” “go to this restaurant,” “invoice this piece,” every day… first thing in the morning…gives me structure. And structure gives me piece of mind.

5. Surround yourself with awesome people. This. This is literally my drug. I’ve been making it a point to network and meet and keep in touch with people who inspire the tears out of me. And when I am in a different country? I find like-minded people online who I think would be awesome in real life. Most of the time, they are. (A shout-out to the lovely strangers-now-friends in Taiwan who agreed to meet with me: Robyn, Joan, Holly, Christine, and someone-who-doesn’t-want-to-be-named-but-knows-who-she-is) These aren’t necessarily successful-on-paper folks, though that often tends to be the case. They just, in my point of view, have amazing outlooks on life or achievements and skills that I emulate and feed off of.

6. Stop checking your email. Unfortunately, sometimes my inbox gets a little sad because I’m waiting on someone to complete something… or for a much-anticipated response. Or even for a check to come in. But such is the nature of life. All these anxieties build up and hinder me from doing any work. So the best way to really be productive is to just close off the email and social media and focus.

Any other tips? I could really use some more ;)


 

What I’ve written this week: 

Urban Homestead is a working farm in the middle of Pasadena (LA Weekly)

Not written by me, but take a look (I’m inside!): 

Jonathan Gold’s hand-picked network of tipsters (First We Feast)
10 Things to Learn About Jonathan Gold’s Food Scouts (Eater)

Please Stop Talking About My Face

Two weeks ago, I was on a public Meet Up hike in Taiwan where only one other person showed up. Within 10 mins of our trek up…he said:

“You have a lot of pimples. I’m past that age.”

He ended up being just a rude person in general… spewing out similar comments like “Do you play sports? I thought so. You slouch.” And then, “Oh a Prada bag? You must be really rich.” And when he found out that I’m ten years younger than he is, he spent the hike justifying his slow pace by saying, “I’m finally feeling my age. I can’t walk as fast anymore.”

Rewind to a month ago. I walked into a health store in Taipei and the first thing the owner did? She touched my face and said, “Oh dear. You have acne.”

Two days ago I was at a restaurant eating snake soup for research. Before the owner said anything, he looked at me and said: “You really need to try these snake venom pills. It’ll heal your acne.”

I’m in Tainan right now and scheduled a pedicure appointment at a family friend’s place this morning because the state of my cuticles are quite frankly — really nasty. The first thing this woman says?

“Ugh. You still have acne?”

WHAT.

STOP.

SHUT. UP.

I’m sick and tired and annoyed and frustrated and pissed. The state of my face has been a perpetual annoyance since I’ve been 18. I’ve written about it. I’ve cried over it. And yes I’m actively trying to heal it. BUT ENOUGH WITH THE UNSOLICITED ADVICE.

The amount of unprovoked comments I’ve gotten in my one month in Taiwan have been profound. I don’t care if it’s a supposed cultural issue. Rudeness is not justifiable.

Thank god I live in the States, where people are kind enough to leave me the hell alone. I can’t begin to comprehend how my pimple-ridden counterparts are dealing here living in East Asia on a long-term basis, where the state of one’s face seems to be constantly scrutinized by strangers and family members.

Can we start a campaign against unsolicited advice? Can we start an awareness campaign against rudeness in Taiwan? Because I’m sure I’m not the only acne-cursed person out here who has to deal with this. How about this: Let’s do a body-positive video about acne in Asia.

One month in and I’m about to blow a fuse. I came here to write. Not to obsess over my appearances.

Perhaps I’m being overly critical. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive.

But to be able to thrive sanely in a world where my appearances outrides everything about me as a person is absolutely insane. I’m so glad to be heading back to the States soon.

Words of advice from an acne-sufferer to people who are prone to unsolicited comments: The person in front of you who has acne…is FULLY aware that he/she has acne. And chances are, she is emotionally distressed about it. No one wishes to wake up with painful bumps all over their face. You commenting about the state of her face in front of her perpetuates the notion that she is flawed because of her condition. It heightens her emotional distress. It makes her more self-conscious than she already is. You, a complete stranger, feigning a facade of concern does no one any good. So keep it to yourself and don’t be a dick.

Is this an East Asian thing? Is it a lack of education? Is it a cultural thing? How can we change this?
Let’s discuss.

2014: Year In Review

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I’m chilling in a hotel room in Hualien 花蓮, Taiwan as I type this, thousands of miles away from California — where I spent the last New Year. While I’ve never been a big advocate of the holiday festivities, this is one thing I take seriously: reflection & resolutions.

2014 has most definitely been a tumultuous year. It’s been a year of lessons, a year of (as I predicted) growth.

But it wasn’t the type of growth that I expected. I wanted a steady, comfortable growth. A year where I learned lessons and became a better me with the comfort of stability. Instead I got the opposite. I got punched in the heart, went from coupled-up to single, quit a job, got another job, quit that one too, moved out of home, and moved back in. I oscillated madly between depression and contentment, from unmotivated to motivated.

Oddly, as I type away the last hours of 2014 in Taiwan…I’m realizing that I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I learned a shit ton of lessons.

Never stay with a negative person. It’s far better to be single and lonely, then coupled-up and with someone who belittles you and doesn’t believe in you. This applies to friends and co-workers as well. Negativity ruins ambition.

Follow your passions at all costs. My passion is writing and journalism. This is my calling. I’m going to pursue it full-on, full-time, for the first time in 2015.

Home is precious. For me, home also means the San Gabriel Valley, my Chinese/Taiwanese heritage, and my close friends and family.

The faults we find in others are most likely the faults that are within ourselves. The people who complain and judge the hardest are usually the ones with issues.

When doing business, always sign a contract. Because people get sketchy and weird when it comes to money.

Be proactive when it comes to talking to friends. I’m embarrassed to have learned this lesson so late. I’ve realized the beauty of hitting up my good friends, scheduling a time to talk or Skype, and spending hours having wonderful heart-to-hearts.

Praise people. I’ll never understand why some folks are so competitive when it comes to writing. Everyone has a unique style. I’m a huge fan of other people who write about Chinese food, the SGV, etc, etc. I truly believe that being a nice person means being actively nice. That means texting a friend or Twitter colleague when they write or accomplish something awesome.

Feeling shitty is perfectly okay. Growing up, I always thought that feeling depressed or angry or sad was a bad thing. It’s not. Negative feelings are a part of life and it’s important not to brush them off with “stop being unhappy.” It’s important to let yourself feel all of those things completely, even if that means that you have to hole yourself in for a week and just cry.

Time is precious. I had a phase this year where I went on dates with anyone who asked and seriously overdid it with the online dating. Dozens of dates later, I’ve realized that my time is precious. I just won’t go out of my way anymore to meet with a stranger that I know nothing about. As a good friend told me earlier this month, “Have higher standards Clarissa.”

Love is an action. LOL at how long it took for me to realize this cliche. Love doesn’t operate on a feel-like-it basis. It isn’t a pretty letter, or a beautifully packaged speech. It isn’t a string of promises or even a love song sung at the top of a mountain on Valentine’s Day (true story). A quote I have in my notes: “Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity … Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom … love as the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… True love is an act of will that often transcends ephemeral feelings of love cathexis. It is correct to say, ‘Love is as love does.’”

Surround yourself with like-minded folks. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way but — there’s not a lot of people like me. I have a very specific vision of the world and how I want to live my life. The same goes to everyone that reads this. Not everyone shares your visions and hopes and dreams…but there are a handful of people out there who do or can closely relate. It’s important to spend time with these folks, whether it’s in a professional or personal capacity. This makes me feel less alone and talking to like-minded people is what I do to help me recharge on motivation.

Looking back on this crazy year, I want to end on a positive note. Here are the things I’ve accomplished:

January: Co-founded Xian Wei, a high-end Chinese supper club

February: Started my food tour company, Curated Gnomes. Got write-ups in HuffPo, CBS, LA Magazine.

March: Became head of marketing for Out of the Box Collective. Launched an online magazine. Learned all about farms in Southern California.

April: Launched this new site design.

October: Started blogging for Huffington Post. Was a guest on the radio to talk about Kit Kat bars.

November: AOL did a video on my life. Led my first corporate food tour. I started writing for the Bold Italic. Hit 1000+ followers on Facebook. Hit 3000+ followers on Twitter.

December: Danced my first salsa showcase. Wrote first feature for Eater. I wrote a print feature story for LA Weekly. I did an investigative article for GOOD Magazine.

As for next year? I plan on really working on writing and reporting. I hope to travel to China and Taiwan more and do feature stories there. 2015 is the year of the sheep, which is my zodiac sign. I want it to be the year of epic accomplishments. Hoping it brings good fortune and prosperity!