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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Heirloom Tomato Confit + Tomato Tasting Party at One Acre Farm

Heirloom Tomato Confit + Tomato Tasting Party at One Acre Farm

We never let summer go by without sinking our teeth into peak-season heirloom tomatoes but recently found ourselves with way too many after returning from a tomato party at One Acre Farm. I've written about some of the fun things we get to do when we volunteer there but I can't believe I haven't told you about tomato season at the farm. They grow more than 20 varieties of tomatoes there!

I was so smitten with all the tomatoes during my first year there I didn't recover in time to report about them. But hey, we were more prepared this year and here we are with all the photos and notes from the tasting session to share with you. Plus, a giant bag of precious heirlooms and a recipe for extending their lifespan just a little longer. 

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My Essential Southeast Asian Cookbooks, Part I: Travel

My Essential Southeast Asian Cookbooks, Part I: Travel

Cookbooks on Malaysian food are rare in America but that is about to change when three cookbooks solely dedicated to Malaysian cooking hit the market in the next few months. Yes, three, and I am beyond thrilled! This shows a growing interest in Malaysian cuisine, the food I grew up eating, the food I learned to cook from my parents, and the food that soothes a homesick heart in my American kitchen.

Before we get to the new books (covers shown above), I'd like to tell you about the cookbooks that have helped me cook Malaysian food at home since I moved here. With suggestions from friends in the food business, bookstores, and publishers, I've assembled a collection of cookbooks with Malaysian recipes that I think is worthy of the attention of anyone interested in Malaysian cooking at home. These are books that I cook with and I'd like to share them with you through a series of posts starting with this one. 

Today's line-up is a mixture of old and new Southeast Asian cookbooks inspired by travel.

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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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Fig Leaf Spice Blend from Dandelion and Quince

Fig Leaf Spice Blend from Dandelion and Quince

For a year we lived in a house with a big fig tree. It was the best thing about the house, along with the plum, kumquatorange, and avocado trees. During a year fraught with challenging life transitions, these magnificent trees, so exotic and peculiar to my tropical origins, blessed us with their alluring fruits. 

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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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What I've Learned from Living Abroad

What I've Learned from Living Abroad

What do you know, Vermilion Roots is one year old! Happy birthday, dear blog. I made a cake to celebrate and dedicated the special occasion to the people who grow our food, and to those who champion the cause of sustainable food. This blog has served as a platform to document my journey in a new country, and enabled the connections with many new friends from around the world. When I look back at the year through the stories in the archives, I see a period of growth, renewal and self discovery. Here are some of the important lessons I've learned from my first year living abroad. 

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A New Day in Spring + Cherimoya Overnight Oats

A New Day in Spring + Cherimoya Overnight Oats

Every time I go out to work on the garden, a new bloom greets me. I thank my lucky stars every day that this is happening right now in the backyard of our new place. The candytuft flowers are real eye candy and the columbines look like the perfect hangout for fairies. Spring is definitely here and the weather is getting warm enough for us to enjoy a meal or two under the clear blue sky. I write plenty about the seasons, especially with regards to how they affect my outlook as someone from a tropical country, and I have to say I'm getting pretty chummy with Spring. To me, it's a season filled with a sense of newness and hope, and an air of lightness replaces the heavy drapes of winter.

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Corn Pancakes with Apam Balik Toppings + A Year on the Road

Corn Pancakes with Apam Balik Toppings + A Year on the Road

It's been a year since I moved to California, and six months since I started this blog. The biggest lesson I've learned from it all is this: Nothing beats a good breakfast. Whatever happened yesterday, or wherever you were the day before, tomorrow's breakfast is as certain as the first light of day. There's a sense of newness to that time of the day, it's about being in the present and making a promise to show up for the future. 

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Einkorn Pizza for Birthday + a Video of Italy

Einkorn Pizza for Birthday + a Video of Italy

Around this time a year ago, we were stuffing our faces with freshly-baked, award-winning pizzas in a quirky little spot in Florence, Italy. It was David's birthday. We were joined by a couple of friends we just met at our Airbnb apartment, and we each ordered a pizza. For his birthday this year, we wanted pizza again and decided to whip some up in our kitchen. We made Neapolitan Pizza Margherita using einkorn flour, and it has a crispy-thin crust with minimal toppings in the colors of the Italian flag. 

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How WWOOFing Renewed My Love for Long Beans

How WWOOFing Renewed My Love for Long Beans

Every morning I get up before the sun and I'm out in the field by daybreak. I feed the cats and the chickens, and then dive straight into the work of the day, usually starting with seedling transplant. After receiving clear instructions from Michelle, my farm host, I dig small holes in the ground and fill them with baby kale/ beetroot/ lettuce/ spinach. "Grow," I whisper, "you better grow."

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Cardamom Baked Stuffed Apples + Welcoming Fall

Cardamom Baked Stuffed Apples + Welcoming Fall

The afternoon sky is pale and my mind is foggy. An eerie sense of stillness permeates the air around me. I look out the window and see changes in the landscape that have taken place without me. Just yesterday at the same time it was wonderfully bright and blazing hot, the kind of heat that makes you scream secretly inside. Or stare at the naked blue sky until your eyeballs dance. And then today, someone puts a glass jar over everything, and things slow down to a halt. Tomorrow - who knows?

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Backpacking in the Lassen Wilderness

Backpacking in the Lassen Wilderness

Around the bend lies infinite possibilities: another hill to climb or a downward path; fellow humans or a startled bear; perhaps the mysterious sound you've been hearing in the last quarter mile finally reveals itself, or not and you'll never know; a meadow, a creek, fallen trees, your campsite for the night. When you submit to the power of nature, you become a malleable creature, a child of the wild. I've had many firsts this year, and backpacking in the wilderness of Lassen Volcanic National Park ranks high on the list. 

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