Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's Stuffed With My Hopes and Dreams

There is an industry term for where I am right now: the bench. Some companies call it the "beach" and maintain an actual physical location in the office decorated with leis and inflatable palm trees where employees can relax and watch YouTube videos. My company's bench is more of a metaphysical state of being. It is, in essence, a void between stars where matter and time cease to exist, a limbo before hell where consultants go to atone for their sins, I also take really long lunch breaks.

I have heard rumors that some companies will dump bad employees on the bench until it becomes legal for them to be fired, the equivalent of being put out to pasture. I wonder if this is what's happening to me, affirming my paranoia that everyone I've ever worked with secretly hates me and conducts meetings devising strategies to elbow me out of the company. I told my HR-assigned-mentor about my theory and she said that I shouldn't worry because nobody ever thinks about me; relief cascades over my entire body.

I've tried to make the most of my "time-off" by recovering from my last project (a separate, hellish experience), catching up on continuing professional education requirements, and conceptualizing really laborious meals to prepare. But I cannot help but wonder if this past week has been a gift from the corporate gods or a curse. And I really wanna know if my next project is gonna be near a metro station.

So I made this traditional Jewish meal and then prayed.

Boiling a head of cabbage is as cumbersome as you think it would be.

Cut out the rib.

*Obligatory super stylized picture of meat*

It looks like Lena Dunham.



With some homemade mac and cheese. Wait. I guess that's not kosher.

I feel better.

Monday, July 25, 2011

No Chicken Sauté for You!

The best thing about the statistics class I took sophomore year of college was that it was held in the basement of building 420. Although it doesn’t look like much, this basement is home to two of Stanford’s most famous institutions: the psychology department and the Thai Café. My class met twice a week and ended right before noon, which meant that after spending a strenuous one hour and fifty minutes daydreaming, playing Sporcle games, and reading every article on the New York Times website, I could treat myself to lunch at the Thai Café.

My favorite part about eating at Thai Café was interacting with the owner, who is basically the campus’s version of the Soup Nazi. She yelled at me and then fed me, so she reminds me of my mother, and for that I love her. She pulls her hair back in a tight bun and wears even tighter sweaters. One day I went for lunch and realized with a shock that her figure had overnight become much more…pneumatic. If the rumors are true, it’s a testament to the Thai Café’s popularity and profit margins.

For those who have never been to the Thai Café before, it’s best to go with a more seasoned veteran, since there are a few unspoken rules you’ll have to follow in order to have an optimal experience. But if you don’t have a Stanford connection who can be your lunch buddy, here are some helpful hints:

1. Be patient: The food options on campus generally range from bland to revolting. Thai Café is far and away the best lunch option (and best deal) at Stanford, which means the line can go out the door around noon. But don’t be discouraged; the Thai Café Soup Nazi lady is nothing if not efficient, so the line moves quickly.

2. Know what you want to order ahead of time: Once you get to the register, any hesitation or questions will get you kicked to the back of the line with no mercy. Study the menu while you’re waiting—it’s not long. If in doubt, you can’t go wrong with the daily special.

3. Have your money ready: Again, any dawdling will result in exasperated sighs, death stares, and possible expulsion to the back of the line. Bonus points if you pay in exact change.

4. Under absolutely no circumstances should you ask for substitutions or extras: Really, after all I’ve told you this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Once you give your order the Thai Café lady will shrilly yell it out to her coworker in the back (I still hear cries of “chicken sauté!!” in my dreams). Almost immediately a random Asian man will appear from what looks like a utility closet with your plate of food. Once he showed up and handed me my food before I had even finished putting my change back in my wallet. I’ve tried peeking into the “kitchen” to get a better glimpse of the place’s inner workings, but all I could see was a massive rice cooker, so for all I know the Thai Café is actually a long-running Stanford psych experiment.

Everything on the menu is delicious, but my favorite dish is the chicken sauté. It has a perfect ratio of chicken to vegetables to sauce to rice and strikes just the right balance of spicy, tangy, salty, and MSG-y. The peanut sauce salad, curries, and soups are also quite good. Almost everything comes with a slice of lemon, which is a nice touch. If I’m going to be honest with myself, I would not be impressed with this food if I ate it at a sit-down restaurant in downtown Palo Alto. But the fact that you have to work a little for it, and that it comes from a closet in a basement, makes it taste like a miracle from heaven.

After you’ve gotten your food, head outside if the weather is nice and try to nab a picnic table in the courtyard. Sit down, squeeze some lemon juice over your food, add a generous helping of Sriracha if that’s your thing, and eat. Congratulations, you’ve just had lunch at Thai Café and successfully accomplished what was one of my favorite things to do when I was at college. I loved it so much that I even ended up taking that statistics class twice.

The Thai Café is located at 450 Serra Mall, Building 420 on Stanford campus. It underwent renovations in 2010 so now food is served through a window, but I imagine the experience remains essentially the same. Hours are Monday – Friday, 11:00am – 2:15pm. Everything is $6, tax included.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Vegan Is a Female Version of a Hustla

I met a lot of vegans and vegetarians on my trip to Europe. I must admit that I find it very intriguing. Not only am I pro animal rights and eco-friendliness, I think vegetarianism is an inspiring test of willpower and dedication, especially in a foreign country. Imagine trying to explain to a Greek waiter through mime "no animals" only for him to bring you a heaping plate of fried calamari. 

In the past I had considered myself too much a lover of meat to ever survive on vegetables, grains, and legumes alone. In my fat years, I used to get the one pound burger at Cheeburger Cheeburger, eat the entire thing, and immediately contemplate my next four-legged victim. But now I'm pretty used to not eating the things I want to eat (duck fat and rare steaks) so I'm thinking I might be able to do it.

I told my mother I was considering going vegetarian for one month and she laughed in my face. Initially, I was insulted but then she told me that she doesn't think I can be vegetarian because I'm way too skinny and she's worried I might die.

Love my mummy.


Pasta Primavera

Four Zucchini
Thee Bell Peppers
Two Cups String Beans
One Box of Farfalle/Penne
Olive Oil
Red Pepper Flakes

Break down all the vegetables into bite size pieces. After cubing the zucchini, slicing the peppers, and snipping the ends of the green beans, I decided they were still too big so I cut everything in half once more. The picture shows everything before I made the second cut. Apparently, I was too retarded to take a second pic.

Season everything with minced garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Grill each of the three vegetables individually for 10-15 minutes or until slightly charred and cooked through.

In a pot of salted water. cook one box of penne/farfalle. I had half a box of each so I just threw it all together. In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil with 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes and a tablespoon of fresh oregano. Toss in the cooked pasta and season with salt and pepper.

I served the dish with all the elements separate so people can pick and choose which vegetables they like best to go with their pasta. I like how I say "people" and "pick" as if I didn't eat this entire thing all by myself with reckless abandon.


So in the course of writing this entry I decided that I'm not going to become a vegetarian. I think I'm gonna go eat a lambchop wrapped in bacon now. Bye.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let Us Rap

Recently, I've taken on the arduous tasks of dieting and exercise to achieve the perfect body. Everyone knows that the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is making good habits. Ideally, I would get to a point where I don't loathe going to the gym and I don't miss eating duck fat. A week ago, after skipping dinner and getting black-out-drunk after three drinks, I woke up at 11am in my bed surrounded by baby carrots. Even my drunk self knows the rules. This is a good start.

While I was in CVS the other day I read an article about Taylor Lautner's broken heart and his strict diet of boiled ground beef before filming Twilight. Apparently, he carried it in plastic zip-lock bags wherever he went.

My diet is similar in that I am sticking to only a few key items. But in order to get a leaner, less indigenous-werewolf look, I am switching out the bagged ground beef for nothing but chicken breasts and lettuce. For the next 3 years.


Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Breast
Shrimp (1 pound)
Water Chestnuts
4 Shiitake Mushrooms
2 Large Oyster Mushrooms
Romaine/Iceberg/Butter Lettuce

As with any Chinese recipe, prep work is a nightmare. But the final product, and the abs, are worth it.

Begin by chopping one chicken breast into a fine mince just slightly coarser than ground chicken. It's easiest to do this in stages, dicing the chicken first, and then chopping it into smaller pieces.

This is my sister's hand.
Chopping a chicken breast by hand is a little more work but it's a lot more wholesome than buying pre-ground chicken, which may contain heads, feet, innards, and Taylor Swift's songwriting talent. None of which are things fit for human consumption.

Final product should look a little bit like this. Mix with a 
pinch of salt and a teaspoon of cornstarch.
Do the same with peeled, and de-veined shrimp.As you can see, this works best with a big, scary, Asian cleaver. But it can be done with a regular kitchen knife too, or better yet, a food processor. Using a knife helps you get out some pent up aggression against the accounting companies that won't hire you for no apparent reason.

Mix with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of 
After setting the proteins aside, clean your knife and cutting board and begin chopping the vegetables. This includes about a handful or half a can of water chestnuts.

Two unchopped water chestnuts, for comparison.
Shiitake mushrooms. If you can't find these, 
any Asian-sounding mushroom will do.
This is the beautiful mise en place.

Pour 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a hot pan. Cook the chicken first for about 5-6 minutes, making sure to break it up into little pieces. Remove from pan and cook the shrimp. This will take less time and you can take it out before it's turned completely pink. Next add all the vegetables/mushrooms and stir furiously. After five minutes, or when the mushrooms are soft, throw the meat back in and give it one final stir and a teaspoon of salt.

After letting the contents cool briefly, serve on top of a lettuce leaf with a few drops of chili oil. Wrap. Consume.


In terms of calories, I've lost count. I'm pretty sure the chili oil at the end added an extra 100 alone. So really, this is not diet food at all, but who am I kidding, food worth blogging about is never good for you. My real strategy is to indulge occasionally between long bouts of utter starvation. Kind of similar to the way I blog.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Miss My Tooth

When I come back from the gym I feel justified in eating whatever I want in whatever quantity I want. Without guilt to hold me back, I become a ravenous beast that eats everything sight with the reckless abandon of an Asian woman's driving.

Recently I came back from Ritchie Coliseum and proceeded to shovel food in my mouth rapidly and efficiently. Then it happened. I bit down too enthusiastically, right onto my metal chopstick. I heard a crack and knew at once that I had chipped my front tooth. I went to the mirror to see the damage. Thankfully, you can't really tell anything is wrong unless you are right up in my mouth, in which case, I would have more pressing issues to worry about.

Nobody ever told me that the side effects of getting bigger arms would be imperfect teeth and another reason to dislike Koreans.


Sticky Rice

4 Cups Glutinous Rice
Chinese Sweet Sausage
Chicken Thighs
Straw Mushrooms
Diced Carrots
3 Eggs
Oyster Sauce
Soy Sauce
Vegetable Oil

There is nothing in this dish that could possibly chip my tooth. I will also eat it with my hands.


I was afraid to buy the "Sweet Glutinous Rice" at the store because I thought it was going to be literally full of sugar. In retrospect, that's the kind of rice you want, but sushi rice works well too. Soak the rice in water for 6-8 hours.

Cook the rice in a rice cooker with two tablespoons of oil, and three tablespoons of soy sauce. I don't have a rice cooker so I slummed it on the stove.

In a hot skillet, cook 3-4 diced sweet Chinese sausage links. I'm obsessed with sweet Chinese sausage so I used like, 100 links, as you can see.

Add diced chicken thighs, onions, mushroom, carrots, and peas (in that order). When everything is cooked through add 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce. At this stage, the contents of your pan should look like a Jackson Pollock painting. Scramble the eggs on the side and mix them in.

When the rice is done, fluff it up with a fork to get as much separation between grains as possible. Fold the sauteed ingredients into the rice and season with additional soy sauce to taste.


Ironically, the food I can eat at a feverish pace without killing myself is also so fattening that it completely counteracts my progress at the gym.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Whip My Tail Back and Forth

In elementary school I convinced myself that I was a dinosaur and spent most recesses on all fours with my neck outstretched and my leg dragging behind me like a tail. My favorite species were the herbivorous, even-tempered sauropods [i.e. Little Foot from The Land Before Time]. I couldn't even fathom eating any of my dinosaur friends so I mostly spent my time mediating fights between others and putting leaves in my mouth.

Real life, where I was decidedly a meat eater, was much different. My mother loves telling a story from when I was six years old. She had roasted a chicken for dinner but as soon as I sat down at the dinner table I allegedly declared that it was way too small and refused to eat it. I don't really know how much of this story is truth and how much of it is a passive aggressive attempt to make me feel self-conscious about my weight.

I have no ethical reservations about eating meat because I'm pretty sure if chickens were 100 times bigger they would probably eat us without any hesitation. And if this doesn't soften the guilt murdering helpless animals, you can always shop for a free-range, organic, suicidal pork loin at Whole Foods Market.

Roasted Ribeye

Ribeye 5-6 lbs
4 Tablespoons Salt
1 Tablespoon Pepper
1 Tablespoon Rosemary
1 Tablespoon Thyme

The day before you plan on cooking the meat, season it with 3 tablespoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of pepper. Refrigerate overnight and take it out about 2 hours before baking so the meat can come up to room temperature.

I could eat this by myself.

Before roasting, make several shallow incisions on the surface and smother the entire slab with one tablespoon of thyme, one tablespoon of rosemary, 5 cloves of garlic, and one more tablespoon of salt. [Does anybody else intensely dislike the words "smother" and "slab"?] This may seem like a lot of salt but you have to season the outside heavily since the meat is very thick. Also, I like my food really salty and will probably die of high blood pressure.

Roast the ribeye for half an hour at 450 degrees to form a crust around the meat that will seal in the juices.

Surround the ribeye with two celery stalks and one sliced onion. Return the ribeye to the oven, now at 350 degrees and roast for about 2 more hours.


For a medium rare finish, cook to an internal temperate of about 135 degrees. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise about 5 degrees even after it's been removed from the oven. Do not worry if this happens, your meat is not possessed.

I ate this by myself.


As with most of my phases, I didn't really outgrow loving dinosaurs, it just became socially unacceptable to continue roaring at people and whipping my tail back and forth in public. I still hold long-necks near and dear to my heart, but I must admit that I've grown up to be much more of a sharp-tooth [i.e. Chomper from The Land Before Time II] with my love for meat, my nasty disposition, and my feeble arms.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Meatballs Aren't Bitter, I Am

I was very excited at the beginning of my sophomore year when I found out there was a kitchen in the basement of my dorm. I imagined all the fanciful feasts I would prepare for my hallmates while getting 100% on all of my exams and going to the gym daily. I was to be showered with gratitude and adoration.

It didn't quite work out that way. Somewhere in between switching majors twice and my obsession with naps, I'm pretty sure I only used the kitchen once (and the gym never). And even then, it was only to store mixers for alcohol and reheat leftover fried rice from Shanghai Cafe.

Actually, there was one instance where my roommate and I went down to the kitchen with the intention of cooking pasta. I guess he didn't know that I knew a little bit about cooking because he took on this domineering role, patronizing me about the proper method to boil water and reheat pasta sauce from a jar of Prego. He acted like I'd never seen a mezzaluna or prepared a mise en place before.

I crafted this recipe for meatballs out of my bitterness from that incident and a 50/50 combination of ground pork and ground beef.

Linguine and Meatballs

1/2 Pound Ground Beef (70/30 lean is best)
1/2 Pound Ground Pork
2 Eggs
3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Onion
2 Tablespoons Seasoned Breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Tablespoon salt
1 Teaspoon Pepper
1 Teaspoon Fennel
1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 Dash of Bitterness (don't go looking for this in the grocery store, it comes from the heart)

Mix all the ingredients together with a drizzle of olive oil. When all the ingredients are combined, form into small balls and line them up on a baking sheet.

I topped them with more cheese because I am fat, another source of bitterness.

While baking in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes, I made a simple marinara out of sauteed garlic, caramelized onions, and fresh tomatoes. I then added about two cups of San Marzano tomato puree. Season to taste and simmer to reduce slightly.

Yes, that is who you think it is: Jake Gyllenhaal (circa Prince of Persia).
When the meatballs are done (they may take longer if you made giant, baseball-sized ones), plop them into the sauce you made. Stirring gently didn't really help keep the exterior coat of cheese on the meatballs. I watched as they tragically disintegrated into the sauce.

So I put more cheese on the whole thing later. 

I prefer meatballs on wide pasta like linguine because the two components are more evenly matched. Putting meatballs with angel hair would be like a marriage between Taylor Swift and the oldest, nameless, unpopular Jonas Brother; it would be dysfunctional and unsatisfying.


I may be a college student, but I refuse to be treated like I eat like one.