November Tidbits: Let's Talk About Cookbooks!

November Tidbits: Let's Talk About Cookbooks!

In my first ever visit to New York early this year, I came across Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in the East Village, a bookstore entirely dedicated to cookbooks. When I went back to New York again a few months later for the SAVEUR Blog Awards, my new friend Suchi took me to Kitchen Arts & Letters in Uptown, another bookstore filled to the brim with cookbooks and food-related reads.

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Malaysian Spicy Tomato, Anytime of the Year [Video]

Malaysian Spicy Tomato, Anytime of the Year [Video]

We know tomato as the quintessential warm-weather treat, literally bursting with flavor, minimally handled and enjoyed raw, only lightly adorned with a pinch of salt or a dash of balsamic vinegar to let its best qualities shine.

At other times of the year, especially in colder months like now, this recipe is how I like to eat semi-decent tomatoes still clinging to the heels of summer. Cooked with a rich mix of spices, it turns even subpar supermarket tomatoes into a scrumptious dish that will sustain any tomato craving all through the winter. In fact, hardier tomato varieties
that are more readily available year round like beefsteak and roma are best used to maintain a chewier texture. 

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Sweet Rice Dumplings with Pumpkin (Tang Yuan) + A Pumpkin Party!

Sweet Rice Dumplings with Pumpkin (Tang Yuan) + A Pumpkin Party!

The last time I shared a kitchen with my family in Malaysia was on the night before my little brother's wedding, making tang yuan with aunts, uncles, and cousins I had lost touch with for many years. 

Tang yuan are sticky balls made of glutinous rice flour that sometimes have a sweet peanut, black sesame seed or red bean filling, served in a spicy ginger soup. These dumplings are usually made during the Winter Solstice festival (happening soon) or on the occasion of a family reunion. 

In Chinese tradition, the roundness and stickiness of the balls symbolize harmony and unity within the family. Rarely do we make tang yuan for no special reason, and they are almost always done around a table full of family members involved in various stages of the cooking process. Kneading, the shaping of balls, boiling and scooping, talking loudly, and laughing are all part of the ritual. 

That night, we were honoring the union of two people, and it was one of the most joyous tang yuan making sessions I've ever had in my life.  

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October Tidbits: Taste of Home + Malaysian Fruit Salad (Rojak Buah)

October Tidbits: Taste of Home + Malaysian Fruit Salad (Rojak Buah)

"What meal always tastes like home to you?" 

That question has been on my mind ever since it was brought up on the #WhyIWriteAboutFood interview series I host (read the interview here and and check out the entire collection of delicious conversations here). 

Vermilion Roots was born out of the necessity to find a sense of place after I moved from Malaysia to California. In many ways, it has given me a space to confront my feelings about the place I left and to explore the place where I now live. Along the way, I made a few new friends, met many more at the recent SAVEUR Blog Awards in New York, started volunteering on a farm, tried a bunch of vegetables I'd never heard of before, picked apples and pumpkins for the first time in my life, and became a better cook. A whole new universe opened up for me. All thanks to the universal love of cooking and eating. 

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Golden Turmeric Rice (Nasi Kunyit) [Video]

Golden Turmeric Rice (Nasi Kunyit) [Video]

Early autumn. Ah, the air is getting thinner, crisper, and colder. After living in California for two years, I've had a chance to deliberate over the changing seasons and even pick a favorite. It's a toss between spring and autumn, the transition seasons that allow my mind and body to prepare for the extremities of summer and winter.

You can read about my initial thoughts on springsummer, and autumn, but I've yet to embrace the dark age of winter. Brrr. (I know what you're thinking. California winter is nothing, but don't forget I grew up in a tropical country!)

Right now, I'm feeling comfortably cuddly in an oversized sweater the color of mustard yellow, an intentional choice to contrast the grayness of my day. I suppose I do the same with food, responding not only to my body's need to pack in heat and my craving for spices, but also an ocular desire for a bright dish to show up for dinner.

For that, I have turned to a basic rice preparation using turmeric, known in Malaysia as nasi kunyit and in Indonesia also as nasi kuning. 

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Matcha Tofu Cream Cheese [Video]

Matcha Tofu Cream Cheese [Video]

Here's a quickie but most definitely a goodie! 

I'm going to New York again, this time for the SAVEUR Blog Awards, where Vermilion Roots has been nominated as a finalist in the Best New Voice category. I can't thank you enough for your support in voting and cheering me on. The nomination itself has already been such a great honor and I look forward to meeting all the talented bloggers from around the world. 

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September Tidbits: Fall for Spices + Five Spice Energy Bites

September Tidbits: Fall for Spices + Five Spice Energy Bites
"The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it." -Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

What delights me more than a pantry full of spices from around the world is remembering I have an emergency stash of spices buried deep inside my purse. I call it BYO spice.

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Kohlrabi Carpaccio + What I Learned from The Vegetable Butcher

Kohlrabi Carpaccio + What I Learned from The Vegetable Butcher

Kohlrabi! 

For months, ever since I first saw it at the farmer's market, this bulbous vegetable haunted me with its elusive identity, tantalizing me with the potential of its portly presence and slinky tentacles. 

What is this? How do you cook it? What does it taste like? TELL MEEE. 

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Soba Noodle Salad with Tamari Dressing

Soba Noodle Salad with Tamari Dressing

I love tamari sauce and use it interchangeably with soy sauce, which I wrote about at length when I shared a recipe for Malaysian soy sauce stir-fried noodles. Both are excellent umami agents. I find Chinese soy sauce to be saltier and more pungent, which is great in stir-fries and marinades, and the mellower taste of tamari sauce lends itself very well in a cold salad like this Japanese-themed noodle salad. 

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August Tidbits: Let's Make Rainbow Cauliflower Rice! [Video]

August Tidbits: Let's Make Rainbow Cauliflower Rice! [Video]

We can make cauliflower rice. Or we can make RAINBOW cauliflower rice! All we have to do is use the different varieties of cauliflower. There's the classic white that we're most familiar with. Then there's orange cauliflower, which has a higher content of beta carotene and Vitamin A, and there's the purple kind, which gets its unique hue from the antioxidant anthocyanin. There's also the striking green romanesco with its stunning pine cone shape. Talk about getting your colorful nutrients! No wonder we are encouraged to eat the rainbow. 

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Malaysian Herb Salad (Ulam) [Video]

Malaysian Herb Salad (Ulam) [Video]

When considering some of the ingredients used in preparing the Malaysian herb salad known as ulam, it's easy to understand why anyone, including myself, would be intimidated. We're talking about herbs like daun kaduk (betel leaves), bunga kantan (torch ginger bud), and daun kesum (Vietnamese coriander), just to name a few exotic ones on the list, and all of which I have never seen since moving to the US. 

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Wheat Threshing by Hand + How To Cook Wheat Berries [Video]

Wheat Threshing by Hand + How To Cook Wheat Berries [Video]

There are plenty of opportunities to find out where your food comes from when you work on a farm. I value every lesson learned volunteering at One Acre Farm in Morgan Hill, CA about growing food, harvesting and preparing it, and, let's not forget, enjoying it. And when a farm throws a party, you know you're in for a treat.

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Coconut Milk Sticky Rice with Peach

Coconut Milk Sticky Rice with Peach

Think Thai desserts and the first thing that pops to mind is sticky rice with mango. Drenched in rich, creamy coconut milk, it has to be one of the simplest indulgent desserts ever. And you don't even have to do anything with the mango. Just pick the best of the season and you have yourself a pretty sweet treat. 

July in California is a great time for stone fruits and I was inspired by the abundance of juicy peak-season peaches and nectarines to make this easy dessert with a Southeast Asian flair. 

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