Seattle, Eating Rabbit + L.A. Hacks

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I was up in Seattle the past week, purely for vacation. It’s been a long time coming since I’ve taken time for myself…though I was still admittedly writing during my down time. (I suppose it’s a lovely thing to thoroughly enjoy your job)

Here are some things I’ve written recently:

Where To Eat Rabbit in Los Angeles (LA Weekly)

L.A. Hacks From An L.A. Native (The Bold Italic)

Chinese Healing Foods 101 (KCET)

Best hot pot in Los Angeles. Currently. (LA Times)

Best Salsa Classes in Los Angeles (CBS Los Angeles)

Recipe: Chikuzenni (Root Vegetables and Chicken)

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I’m starting this new goal of recipe-blogging traditional Asian foods on the regular. I figured, after writing extensively about the subject for three years, it’s time to walk the walk. Or at least, start to. Some of these recipes will be attempted by myself…but mostly, I’m going to leave it up to the experts to teach me. And then try them again at home.

My focus will be on traditional dishes. I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel here; I’m not pursuing trendy or cool. Those who have been following my writing know that I’m a nerd when it comes to the historical and cultural context of food. One of my main goals, aside from developing as a writer in general, is to preserve the stories behind certain dishes — particularly those of Asian origin. Spread the word. Email me (clarissapwei@gmail.com) if you know a friend or mom or dad who cooks crazy stellar traditional foods. I have my grandmother scheduled for a traditional Taiwanese zongzi-making session…and a hot Sichuan restaurant in Los Angeles for some of their speciality dishes.

Why?

Because I’m tired of Asian food being billed as exotic and inaccessible. I go to food events and French cooking terms are pronounced impeccably. Chinese? Hah. (Not to mention I’ve seen the phrase mise en place used at least a dozen times this week, scattered among random articles… both food and not.)

What it boils down to, for me, is education. So world — here’s my attempt to learn and transmit as much as I can about Asian food.

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Pork Over Rice in Los Angeles

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Originally posted KCET Food

Pork rice bowls are unapologetically decadent. A healthy piece of pork glistening in its own fat and draped over rice is one of the best comfort dishes available. Fat is a necessary evil; it’s what gives the plate flavor.

The dish isn’t complicated. It is just pork over rice. Pork belly, thinly sliced pork, cubed fatty pork — any variation works really. Enjoy it, eat it slowly, let the fat disintegrate in your mouth.

Here are our favorite places for it in Los Angeles:

Tofu King
There’s something enchanting about the pork over rice, or rouzaofan, at Tofu King. If you hang out at the restaurant long enough, you’ll see the chefs pluck out large slabs of frozen meat from the back freezer and bring it into the kitchen. And somewhere behind the scenes, the magic happens. The pork is braised for hours until it reaches its signature creamy consistency. Marinated with different colored soy sauces, sugar, and rice wine, it comes out sweet and savory all at the same time. The pork is cubed, scooped over a bowl of rice and paired with a bit of pickled mustard greens which helps cut the fat and add balance. Finally, a stewed egg is placed on the side for good measure. Pair it with a side of their a-choy (a mustard green), also conveniently topped with fatty pork. 713 W Duarte Rd Ste C Arcadia, CA 91007; (626) 254-0223.

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All The Hello Kitty Foods at Hello Kitty Con

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Originally posted on L.A. Times Food

The first-ever Hello Kitty Convention kicked off in Little Tokyo on Thursday and will be gracing Los Angeles through Sunday. The completely sold-out event has taken over the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA and everything is now pink, rainbow and adorable.

There’s Hello Kitty paraphernalia from floor to ceiling and hordes of dedicated fans decked out in their best Sanrio outfits.

It’s intense. Inside are bento workshops, a supermarket, high-tech carnival games, jewelry, makeup, Kittified sports gear, a full-functioning tattoo parlor, and of course — our main focus — Hello Kitty-themed foods.

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Recipe: Sichuan Garlic Pork 蒜泥白肉

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Suan ni bai rou (蒜泥白肉) is one of those dishes I order every single time I go into a Sichuan restaurant. Thin slices of pork belly, cold, and marinated with a delectable soy-chili-garlic sauce. The direct translation is simple: garlic white pork.

I was inspired by Szechuan Impression’s version. (I’m convinced they have the best one in town!) A lot of online recipes call for brown sugar…but Sichuan chefs that I’ve spoken to are pretty adamant on not using sugar in their cooking.

Here’s my rendition.

For the sauce:
10 dried chili pepper seeds (or 2-3 fresh chilies, minced)
4 tbsp finely minced garlic
8 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Sichuan pepper chili oil
6 tbsp rice vinegar
5 tbsp pork broth

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Dear Prince Charming

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Dear Prince Charming:

“I’ve quit my job. I’m going to travel,” I told the folks in my circle recently, my eyes feverish with the thought.

“I’m so happy for you hon. Do you,” all my friends – men and women – chimed.

“You should really be careful,” you said. “It’s not safe.”

We’ve only been on three dates.

Dear Charming. I’m tired of guys like you, men from kingdoms far away who see me as a damsel in distress; guys who think I need rescuing, boys who give me unsolicited advice on how to live my life, how to exercise, how to eat.

I don’t need you to ride into my life and save me. Take a look around at my kingdom. I’ve built it myself from the ground up and it’s been going strong for 23 years now. And right next door? There’s an army of fellow kings and queens who have always been there for me and will help me… when I ask them to.

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Mochi Doughnuts, Rabbit Cakes, Goldfish Jellies!

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Originally posted on L.A. Times Food

Name of shop: J.Sweets, inside Mitsuwa Marketplace in Torrance. It’s actually a conglomerate of different brands located in one section of the store. They are: Mochi Cream, Minamoto Kitchoan, Yoku Moku, Kobe Fugetsudo, Rokumeikan, Kyo-Hayashiya, Boul’Mich.

Chef: The confectionery shop is operated by Jalux Americas. They import sweets directly from various Japanese vendors.

What products represent the shop, and why?

Usagi from Minamoto Kitchoan: They’re limited edition, miniature pastries shaped like rabbits and stuffed with bean paste and yuzu. They come in gift sets; each box has 10 little bunnies, neatly arranged. It’s $28 for a set and they’re almost sold out for the year.

Hakuto jelly from Minamoto Kitchoan: The seasonal dessert is made from Hakuto white peaches from the Okayama prefecture. It’s in jelly form, shaped like a peach, and wrapped in delicate paper, as if the peach were made out of precious jewels. It might as well be; the product retails for $39 for three pieces.

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Be You. Stay True Blue.

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“So, what exactly do you do?”

I get asked this question a lot and have a difficult time answering it.

The thing is. I do a lot of things. I blog here. I do marketing for a start-up company. I edit a magazine. I freelance write for a couple of publications. I started a supper club back in January. I lead food tours. I own a food tour company. I write…a lot. Lately I’ve been consulting. I publish a lot of articles about Chinese food but I write about all sorts of other things too. Oh, and I do food photography. I hate labeling myself. I don’t like saying I’m a “Chinese food writer,” because that implies I only write about Chinese food. …Or even a food writer because that implies I only write about food.

Let’s make it simple: Hi. I’m Clarissa Wei. And I do me.

I keep my website named, “Clarissa Wei” because that’s my goal in life: To be myself and to make a living doing whatever I love. There are folks out there who are better than me in every single aspect. They can write better, they can market better, they can research better, they can speak Chinese far better than I can or ever will. My only asset is my identity — my unique range of skills and abilities I have accumulated and developed over the years. No one can be me, better than me.

And the me right now is into storytelling, food, Chinese culture, organic farms, writing, and cooking. Hence, all the jobs I have taken on.

That may change as I change. Sometimes I’ll be much more interested in writing than I am in food. Other days, all I want to do is research Chinese culture and eat Chinese food. What if, one day, I decide I want to get into politics? Or law? Or music writing? Or dancing? I want that to be okay.

I think, too often, we’re so caught up into the school of personal branding that we’re terrified of stepping outside of our self-determined label in fears of a) being judged and b) being counterproductive. From an efficiency standpoint, it makes sense. You want to specialize. That’s how you get hired.

But I want to set up a system in my professional life that’s extremely flexible, where I can dabble in whatever interests me at that time and be able to support myself financially. These are my aspirations.

After all, I don’t have a career. I have a life. And life, I’ve reasoned, is too short for me to just be anyone but myself.

Shi Hai Restaurant

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Animal-shaped dim sum is nothing new. But rarely do you see anything of the sort in Los Angeles.

And so, when I spotted these gems on ChiHuo’s Instagram feed and knew I had to make my way over. Don’t be deceived. What’s inside might confuse you. Hint: It’s not pork. Watch the video below, of me porking out (hehe) to see…

The restaurant has an interesting selection of dim sum. There’s baked durian pastry (third photo down) and a heart-shaped pastry with waterchestnut gelatin (forth photo down) sandwiched in the middle.

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