Asian Pear and Dried Fig Soup + California Fig Road Trip

Asian Pear and Dried Fig Soup + California Fig Road Trip

Did you know that there are believed to be more than 1,500 varieties of figs in the world? The first time I had a fig and fell in love with it was in Turkey. It was one of the dark skin varieties, Mission or Brown Turkey, which to me at that time was mysterious and exotic. The love affair continued when I moved to a house in California with an old fig tree that produces little green figs called Kadota. 

I learned to identify the types of figs I was eating, even when they were dried. It wasn't much later that I realized my family in Malaysia had been cooking with dried figs, particularly to make herbal soups, and that I was enjoying these elixirs without knowing the presence of figs in them. The recipe I'm sharing today, although much simplified in terms of ingredients, is a tribute to that tradition. 

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Two Birthday Cakes: Thai Basil Avocado and Kaffir Lime Leaf Mango

Two Birthday Cakes: Thai Basil Avocado and Kaffir Lime Leaf Mango

Vermilion Roots is TWO! So I made two cakes. Not that I need any excuse to crowd your screen with the plump, juicy colors of seasonal fruits and fresh berries, but I can't think of anything more suitable for this blog's status as a Spring baby. Besides, these beauties are for sharing. They deserve attention and we, my dear friends, deserve to celebrate. 

You'd probably realised by now that I'm a fan of unconventional cakes. I'm known to show up at potlucks with a green cake in hand, and to commemorate this blog's first birthday, I made a savory Chinese turnip cake served with spring onions and Sriracha sauce! Continuing the tradition of unconventional cakes this year, I present to you Thai Basil Avocado Cake and Kaffir Lime Leaf Mango Cake, both smothered with all the berries the land has to offer this season. 

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Red Bean Soup and Peanut Mochi

Red Bean Soup and Peanut Mochi

Peanuts for a long life, sticky rice for togetherness, red beans for love, oranges for good fortune... And all that sweetness for a sweet life in the new year!

Make no mistake, Chinese New Year is about food: the preparation, cooking, and eating are all a part of the ceremonious celebration that lasts about two weeks. It is when we eat special foods that carry symbolic significance for a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year. It is also when food is in abundance and generously shared to bring forth a full and contented spirit to start the year with. At this time of the year, more is always better and sharing truly is caring!

Today, in celebration of the lunar new year, I have two sweet recipes for you: Red Bean Soup and Peanut Mochi that are especially delicious enjoyed together. The recipes are adapted from the impressive China: The Cookbook, my friendly cooking companion this festive season. And it could be yours too as I'm giving away a copy! (Scroll down for details on how to win.)  

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Chinatown + Snow Fungus Soup for a Sweet Lunar New Year

Chinatown + Snow Fungus Soup for a Sweet Lunar New Year

There's a joke among Malaysians that we'll travel far and wide for food, and that includes speed driving across town for that special plate of char kway teow during our workday lunch break or making a road trip out of an intense desire for laksa on the island of Penang. That habit is a persistent one and even after relocating to the US, my husband and I often find ourselves making the hour-long drive to Oakland for our favorite Malaysian restaurant in the SF Bay Area. And because the restaurant is located in Chinatown, we get to kill two birds with one stone: eating and shopping!

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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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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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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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Vegan Five Spice Molasses Cookies

Vegan Five Spice Molasses Cookies

What do you make when you've just moved into a new place? Cookies, of course. What kind of cookies? Hold on, the better question is: What aroma do you want to fill the house with? Something spicy, I said. And earthy. Something that smells, no, feels like home. So on a particularly cold winter day, we fired up the oven for the first time and christened the house with the heady aroma of Chinese Five Spice. 

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Winter Vegetables in Coconut Milk (Bubur Cha Cha)

Winter Vegetables in Coconut Milk (Bubur Cha Cha)

I come to you today with several discoveries. Firstly: Parsnip! Can you believe I had parsnip for the first time only a few weeks ago? Well, it's actually perfectly believable considering I moved to California less than 1.5 years ago from a tropical country that eats vegetables like kangkung and choy sum. Believable but perhaps not forgivable that I took so long to get to it.

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Vegan Cornflake Cereal Cookies + A Cookie Party!

Vegan Cornflake Cereal Cookies + A Cookie Party!

Oh, how we associate certain foods and flavors with certain occasions. Chinese New Year is around the corner (February 8th) and everyone's baking up a storm! Chinese New Year cookies are a unique breed that holds a firm place on the calendar. You don't see much of them at other times of the year, but come January and February, they march out of the oven and practically take over the house.

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Fresh Fruit Whole Wheat Loaf Cake

Fresh Fruit Whole Wheat Loaf Cake

"Sek bao mei?"

No matter what time my mom or dad calls, the first question is inevitably, "Have you eaten?" Instead of saying Hello, asking someone about the last time they filled their stomach is a common greeting in Chinese culture, particularly among older folks. I've grown so accustomed to it that I've never challenged its peculiarity, until the question was directed to me in the middle of the night due to the time difference between where my parents are and where I live now. I recognise that as their way of saying "How are you?" so I assure them of my wellbeing by counting all the wonderful new food discoveries I've made since moving to California. 

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Recipe Confidence: Rye Pound Cake with Seed Medley

Recipe Confidence: Rye Pound Cake with Seed Medley

Rye flour. Caraway seeds. Pepitas. Funny how some ingredients draw you in instantly. This cake, to quote Heidi Swanson in her latest book Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel, "is a tender-crumbed, highly seeded, unfussy affair". Unfussy. I like that. Part of the pleasure of reading a cookbook is letting the words roll around in your mouth, like a teaser before the big reveal. Tender-crumbed. Yes, I would like to be responsible for that sensation. 

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Roasted Chana Dal with Jaggery and Coconut (Okkarai) for Diwali

Roasted Chana Dal with Jaggery and Coconut (Okkarai) for Diwali

The Indian festival of lights is happening in November and I'm feeling nostalgic about the celebrations back in Malaysia. Growing up in a multicultural country means having a variety of major holidays throughout the year, and with them come various spreads of festive culinary delights. Along with Chinese New Year, Aidilfitri and Christmas, Diwali (or Deepavali) is one of the many festivals Malaysians partake in.

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Recipe Confidence: Ginger-Apple Crumble Pie (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Recipe Confidence: Ginger-Apple Crumble Pie (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

There's nothing more satisfying than successfully making a vegan, gluten-free apple pie from scratch with apples freshly picked from the orchards. Dutch apple pie has always been my favorite. I love everything about it, from the flaky crust that gently cradles the spiced apples to the crispy crumble top. Making the appropriate ingredient substitutions is the main challenge in creating a dairy- and gluten-free version of it, and I knew I needed a recipe I could fully rely on.

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