Wooden Forks and Spoons – No More Metal Taste

Wood vs. Stainless Steel: A Utensil Comparison 

Did you ever notice a metallic taste when eating with a stainless-steel fork or spoon? This metal taste is usually subtle, but it becomes obvious when you eat acidic fruit, salad with lemon dressing, or delicate food.  When I told a group of friends about my finding, many were skeptical.  As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding, but since I don’t make pudding, I opted for a tuna avocado salad with lemon dressing.  I prepared the salad, set it down on the table and handed out wooden forks and metal forks.  Sure enough, with a side-by-side comparison, even my most skeptical friends tasted a silent metal favor in the creaminess of the avocado marinated in lemon dressing.  With wooden forks, the salad tasted pure.  Indeed, the metal utensils changed the flavor of an acidic salad.  While we finished lunch, we wondered aloud about how many people actually taste a metal flavor when using stainless-steel utensils.  A quick search online brought us to a Facebook page dedicated to this exact issue: “I hate when my spoon or fork tastes like metal.”

Don’t Kill the Fish Twice With A Metal Fork

I once saw a man eat sashimi with a fork at a Japanese restaurant.  While most people picked up the delicate raw fish with wooden chopsticks, he used metal cutlery.  As he speared the toro, I felt as though the blue fin tuna had been killed twice—first by the fisherman and second by the sharp stainless-steel tines.  He then dipped the toro into soy sauce and wasabi before finally putting it in his mouth.  With the fork stuck through the delicate fish, the taste of the fatty tuna was indelibly altered.  I looked around the restaurant and thought, “In a perfect foodie world, the sushi police would miraculously appear, stop the man from forking his toro and then a kind waitress, standing right behind the man, would offer him  the perfect alternative—a wooden fork.”

Not All Wooden Utensils are Created Equal

Perhaps because many Asians grew up eating with wooden utensils, we are more aware of the metal taste; after all, wooden utensils are a lot more popular in the East than the West.  Every year I go back to Asia, and each time I find more varieties of wooden forks and spoons, crafted in different lengths and shapes and colors.  Finding the perfect wooden spoon or fork is like finding the perfect pair of jeans; it requires time, energy and dedication (but luckily no diet).  Many of the wooden forks I found were too flaky and broke after a few uses.  And many of the wooden spoons were either too shallow to hold much food or too big to eat comfortably.  My favorite wooden spoons and forks measure 7 ¾ inches, just the right length for eating. I especially like the ones with black threads wrapped tightly around the handles; not only are they beautiful, but they also prevent slipping.

Although wooden utensils are generally dishwasher safe, I recommend washing them by hand in order to prolong their lives. Wooden forks and spoons, which guarantee a pure eating experience, belong in everybody’s utensil drawer and make great gifts, even for people who seem to have everything.



Easiest Chinese Stir-Fry Recipe – Romaine Lettuce

A Bite of Spring – Romaine Lettuce

When my friend Emmy visited from Taiwan last year, and the subject turned to food, as it often does with me, I told her, “I miss Ei-a Vegetable but it’s almost impossible to find any in the US.”  (For those who’ve never heard of it, Ei-a Vegetable is commonly known as “A” Vegetable.  Taiwanese use the English letter “A” to preserve this vegetable’s Taiwanese pronunciation.)  Sensing my chagrin, Emmy hit me with this secret, “A Vegetable is a cousin of Romaine Lettuce.  You can just use Romaine for stir-fry.”  Suddenly I saw lettuce in a whole new light.

A Vegetable is basically baby Romaine lettuce. The leaves are a little smaller, and they’re a lighter green, but the taste is similar.  Using “Western” lettuce as an ingredient to make a Chinese dish is the essence of my blog (and my life in New York City) – “When East Meets West.”  Romaine is no longer just for Caesar Salad.  It’s related to my beloved home vegetable, it’s a fresh bite of spring, and it’s also the key ingredient in the easiest Chinese stir-fry recipe you’ll ever find.

Romaine Lettuce Stir-Fry Recipe


  1. 1 Romaine Lettuce
  2. 6 cloves of chopped garlic
  3. 2 table spoons of Canola Oil


  1. Cut Romaine Lettuce into pieces about 2 inches wide
  2. Wash Romaine Lettuce
  3. Heat up the wok (or sauté pan) for 30 seconds and add Canola Oil
  4. Add chopped garlic into the wok and stir fry for 1 minute
  5. Add Romaine Lettuce and stir fry for 1.5 minutes then add salt in the last 20 seconds before serving

A hearty thank you to Emmy for her great suggestion!

So go out there, get a head of Romaine, cook up this simple dish and let me know how you like it.  I hope this recipe will inspire you to cook many more healthy Chinese dishes.

Cut Romaine Lettuce into pieces about 2 inches wide.

Saute garlic in the wok for 1 minute.

How to Use a Wok: Top 10 Ways

Adam’s mom inspired me to write this blog entry.  When Adam brought her a wok from Taiwan, she wasn’t sure what to do.  Growing up in Asia, cooking with a wok was second nature to me, so this week’s post is all about de-mystifying the wok.

 Why Not Wok-n-Roll?

Many of my American friends think woks are only good for stir fry. And if they never learned Chinese cooking, they avoid woks like I avoid operating heavy machinery.  While a wok tends to be big and bulky, and almost never comes with instructions, it’s potentially the most versatile cooking vessel in your kitchen.  Personally I don’t buy any oversize kitchenware if it performs only one function, especially because I live in a small Manhattan apartment.  (I pay $50 a month for my refrigerator space alone.)  So everything in my tiny kitchen is multifunctional.  If you already own a wok or are thinking of buying one, you should know that woks are about much more than stir fry.  Here are some of the many ways I use my trusty wok.

Top 10 Ways to Use a Wok

1. Tossing Salad

The standard wok for home use is 12 to 14 inches wide and 4 to 5 inches deep. It’s the biggest salad bowl in your kitchen.  Put your vegetables in, toss them and serve.

2. Boiling Pasta, Dumplings, Seafood and Vegetables

Woks are big enough to cook any shape of pasta and are actually ideal for long noodles.  Instead of bending and breaking spaghetti or linguine, woks allow you to keep every pasta shape intact.  And because woks hold ample water, your pasta or dumplings won’t stick together.  Woks are also great for boiling over-sized vegetables (like cabbage or cauliflower) and seafood (like lobster or crab).

3. Roasting

I use my wok to roast pine nuts, peanuts, almonds, sesame seeds and coffee beans.  I can go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

 4. Making Soup, Stew, Fondue, and Any One-Pot Dish

Most woks are big enough to make a dish for a family of six.  Use your handy wok as an additional pot.

 5. Steaming Dumplings, Vegetables, Buns, Eggs, and Seafood

You can place a traditional bamboo steamer inside the wok to steam.  Or, you can use a steaming rack or a stand and place your plate on top.  Put some water in the wok, close the lid and you’re ready to steam almost anything.

Stand Inside A Wok

Rack Inside A Wok

6. Making Gourmet Popcorn

If you’re tired of microwave-popcorn and looking for gourmet flavor to jazz up your next party, here’s a quick tip on how to make popcorn using your wok:

Melt butter in your wok under low heat, add popped corn and stir until every kernel is lightly coated with butter.  Add sliced almonds, spices (or anything you desire), cover the lid and turn up the heat.  After your corn is popped, open the lid, sprinkle some salt and voila!

7. Smoking Fish/Seafood

Imagine smoking your own salmon for your next Sunday breakfast.  All you need is a wok, aluminum foil, wood chips and of course a nice slice of salmon.  Cover the inside of your wok with aluminum foil, toss in a handful of wood chips, place the smoking rack on top and put your fish or squid directly on the rack or on a plate.  Cover the lid and you’re ready to smoke.  Just remember to open your window before you open the lid to air out your kitchen.

 8. Deep Fry

Put oil in the wok.  Once the temperature is right (each deep fry has a different temperature so check your recipe), start frying.  You know the drill.

9. Heating Up Tortillas, Bread and Muffins

I actually use my wok as a mini-oven to heat up all of my bread products.  It’s much quicker than the oven and saves energy.

 10.  Stir Fry

While stir fry is not nearly as intimidating as you think, it deserves some special attention.  In my next blog, I’ll give you a Stir Fry 101 course and one of my easiest recipes to get you started.

The Rise of Chinese Bakeries

Mugi Bakery & Cafe in Flushing, New York

You probably remember the last time you ate at a Chinese restaurant or had Chinese takeout, but when was the last time you went to a Chinese bakery? If the answer is never, you’re missing out.  Asian people go to Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Tokyo and Little Manila in North America and Europe, not just to eat or shop, but also to visit their bakeries.  Most Asian countries have their own style of bakeries, but Chinese bakeries outnumber all the others.  In New York City alone, there are more than 120 Chinese bakeries.  In Toronto there are a whopping 160.   And the numbers are growing fast.  In fact, Chinese bakeries are going mainstream, spreading beyond the borders of Chinatowns.  Now you can find them at Citi Field, in Manhattan’s Garment District, and near UC Irvine’s campus.

What is a Chinese Bakery Anyway?

Let’s face it, China isn’t known for its desserts.  What we call a “Chinese” bakery in North America and Europe is actually called a “Western-Style” bakery in Asia.  These bakeries make Western-influenced bread, cakes and pastries which are different from the items found in traditional Chinese bake shops.  We call this type of bakery “Chinese” because we find them in every Chinatown in the world and to differentiate them from traditional Western patisseries.

The Origin of Chinese Bakeries

Chinese people didn’t just wake up one day and decide to bake Western goods. It took two major historical events to provide an alternative to Chinese breakfasts and afternoon snacks, which we can see by looking at two types of bakeries: Hong Kong style and Taiwanese.  Hong Kong has a strong Western influence because it was a British colony for 156 years.  Taiwan started Western-influenced baking during the Japanese occupation in the late 1930s.  (Japan underwent “Westernization” during the Meiji Period when the emperor decided to adopt Western industrial advances.) There is a clear distinction between Taiwanese and Hong Kong bakeries in Asia. Taiwan tends to bake more bread-like buns whereas Hong Kong features more tarts and pastries.  However, outside of Asia you won’t see many regional differences in the baked goods offered because just like Chinese restaurants overseas, Chinese bakeries have become all inclusive.

Differences between Chinese and Western Bakeries

In general, Chinese baked goods use a lot less sugar and butter than Western pastries and are healthier. The bread is also softer than French baguettes or American dinner rolls because Chinese bakers use less yeast and beat the yolks and egg whites into the batter separately.  The result is soft, light, fluffy bread.  Another distinct difference is the low price of the items.  A piece of cake or a bun usually costs around one US dollar.

What Do Chinese Bakeries Bake?

A major Chinese bakery produces as many as 300 different items per day, ranging from bread, buns, pastries, cookies, sandwiches, cakes, hot drinks and cold beverages.  It’s hard to choose from such a huge selection so I recommend you try the baked goods below (some of my favorites) which you can find in every Chinese bakery:

  • Egg Custard Tart– a sweet tart with egg custard filling (Hong Kong Style is yellow on top whereas Portuguese Style is slightly burned)
  • Pineapple Bun – a slightly sweet bread without any pineapples. The name came from the “pineapple-like” crispy crust. 
  • Scallion Bun – a savory bread with scallions on top 
  • Raisin Twist – a soft bread filled with raisins, but far lighter than a Cinnabon. This is my friend Simon’s favorite treat.   He goes to Chinatown in London just to buy raisin twists, yet no matter how many he buys, he always goes home empty handed.  His excuse is that the subway ride is too long.  
  • Milk Tea – black tea with sugar and milk.  You can ask the server to adjust the amount of sugar you want.  Milk Tea goes great with any of the above breads.
  • Bubble Tea – sweet tea with small chewy balls made of tapioca starch.  You can get either iced bubble tea or hot bubble tea.  With bubble tea you don’t need any bread—it’s a stand-alone dessert treat.

Write and let me know which item is your favorite!

The Scent of Memory: Western-Style Chinese Bakeries

When I was little, there were several “Western-style” (西點麵包) bakeries in Taipei.  They baked hot, soft, savory-sweet bread and sold cold milk that came in glass bottles.  Eating those Western-influenced baked goods was my earliest and most delicious food memory, and the experience was so profound that I often dream about it now, many years and many miles later.  Just last week, when I passed by a bakery on Madison Avenue, the aroma took me directly back to my childhood.

When I was three, my family lived on Zhongshan North Road, Section 2, an eight-lane thoroughfare that was also the most high-end district in Taipei.  Back then, Zhongshan North Road was Taipei’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue in NYC with its deluxe hotels, five-star restaurants, airline headquarters, premium boutiques, English bookstores and throngs of tourists. It was actually more stunning than Fifth Avenue because majestic maple trees lined the wide road for miles.

My eight-year-old sister, Wen-wen, would come home from school at three o’clock every day, too late for lunch and too early for dinner.  Wen-wen and I always got hungry at this odd hour so my mother, a successful businesswoman, would give my sister money to take me to a “Western-style” bakery.  It was actually the perfect time to go to a bakery because the bread was baked twice a day, early in the morning and in mid-afternoon. If you go to a bakery in Taiwan during these times, you’re sure to have hot, soft, steaming buns. Back then, bakeries were not as popular as they are in Taipei today, so we had to walk 10-15 minutes to reach the closest one.  During our walk, my sister usually asked me what kind of bread and milk I would choose. The milk was either white or flavored with juice; chocolate milk came later. Although there were more than a dozen varieties of bread, I usually chose between my four favorites: Scallion Bun, Pineapple Bun, Peanut Butter Bun or Strawberry Jam Bun.  I took our food discussions seriously, perhaps because this was the only time I was in charge of choosing my own food.  I’d tell Wen-wen exactly what I was going to eat and why—I always had a very specific explanation for my daily snack!  My sister would listen patiently and then, copying my chain of reasoning, she’d tell me her bakery choices for the day.

Wen-wen and I usually sat side-by-side facing the window and ate our snacks quietly.  Silence is the only sound when the food speaks louder than the world. I liked to watch the people walk by through the big glass window. Sitting on a stool, legs too short to touch the floor, I held a bun in one hand and a bottle of milk in the other. (How I miss those days when milk came in a glass bottle—an age of simple and clean food.)  The bread was hot, the aroma of baking surrounded the whole store and lingered blocks away, and I savored every bite of my bread as if it were the last food I’d ever eat. My family always teased me about my intense concentration when I ate.  The outside world disappeared. I truly lived for the moment, for every bite of food I had in my mouth.  This bakery ritual lasted until I started elementary school, but my sister and I never grew tired of our afternoon strolls.

I still remember vividly one afternoon when my sister and I were walking home from a bakery and I looked up at Wen-wen as she told me her school stories. I saw the sunshine sparkling through the maple tree leaves, enjoyed the fall’s lazy breeze brushing by my face, and felt full, content and loved. I was only three or maybe four but, young as I was, I knew at that very moment I was blessed—blessed to be walking on beautiful Zhongshan North Road with delicious buns in my stomach and my loving sister by my side.

Perhaps it’s because my bakery memory was so profoundly satisfying, or perhaps it’s because my sister Wen-wen departed this world at the young age of 29 (and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her), but I keep dreaming about walking into my favorite childhood bakery and choosing hot bread.  Living in New York City for the past fourteen years, the bakery has become the passage back to my childhood and to my homeland, Taiwan.

In my next post, I will talk about the rise of the Chinese bakery in North America and Europe.  I will also discuss what distinguishes a Chinese bakery and describe some of the delicious goods they bake. 

Savory Oatmeal – A Healthy Breakfast with Asian Flair

Experiment with Oatmeal

I first thought of making oatmeal for breakfast because of its health benefits – full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, oatmeal can lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and even reduce weight.  Knowing virtually nothing about this hot cereal except for its benefits, I did some research on different types of oatmeal and their tastes.  My first bite of unflavored oatmeal left me less than impressed.  Americans in the mid-1800s called oatmeal “nothing more than horse feed” and I suddenly felt sorry for the horses.  Still, I thought, oatmeal has to be good for you.  Anything that tastes this bland, but has been around for this long, must be healthy.  Otherwise oatmeal would be extinct with the dinosaurs.

Healthy and Sweet Oatmeal

By nature, oatmeal is bland.  Oat grains take a while to cook (about 30 minutes). Instant oatmeal solves the problem of this time-consuming and tasteless breakfast, yet most brands are loaded with sugar and artificial flavors.  Reading the ingredients, I instantly ruled out instant oatmeal.  Instead I purchased a box of McCann Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal and cooked it with fat-free organic milk.  The milk made it creamier and added a boost of calcium.  Then I added maple syrup (or honey) instead of sugar, and replaced artificial flavors found in instant oatmeal with organic raisins, banana slices and walnuts.  I even added freshly ground flax seeds to make my breakfast super healthy.  The result was wholesome and delicious. But I was happy with this recipe for only one month.  Perhaps because my sweet tooth was never developed (I was one of those strange kids who didn’t love chocolate or cake), I always crave something savory instead of sweet.  So I quickly searched online to see if there were any unique oatmeal recipes that would fulfill my jones for salt.  As I guessed, I wasn’t the only one craving a savory breakfast.  Although a couple of savory recipes looked delicious and interesting, many contained cheese and meat, which was not the kind of “clean” food I’d hoped for.

Asian Flavored Savory Oatmeal

I quit searching online and started searching my childhood food memories.  My grandmother used to make different types of congee (a rice porridge popular in many Asian countries) for me and my sister. Some of her congees were sweet (rice cooked with sweet potatoes and water) but most were savory.  I combined her cooking technique with ingredients readily found in any supermarket and came up with this recipe:

Oatmeal with Chicken Soup and Mushrooms Recipe

Oatmeal Cooked in a Rice Cooker

Ingredients for 1 serving:

  1. ½ cup of McCann Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal (or any other steel cut oatmeal)
  2. 1 ½  cups of organic, low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth (the ratio of oatmeal to chicken broth is 1:3)
  3. 2 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms (or fresh shiitake if dried mushrooms are not available)
  4. ½ scallion
  5. 1 dash of black or white pepper (according to your taste)


  1. Soak dried mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes until soft.  (You can prepare the mushrooms the night before)  If you use fresh mushrooms, no soaking required.
  2. Julienne mushrooms.
  3. Place oatmeal, chicken broth, and mushrooms in the rice cooker, and follow your rice cooker instructions.  If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can cook the oatmeal in a pan over the stovetop at low heat for 30 minutes (stir occasionally to avoid sticking).
  4. After the rice cooker is turned off, let the oatmeal sit in the cooker and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Chop the scallion very fine
  6. Garnish the oatmeal with your scallion and a dash of white or black pepper.

This unique recipe requires only three main ingredients which you can find in your supermarket. Since the rice cooker is doing all the work for you, you can get ready for your day while the oatmeal cooks. Or, you can make the oatmeal the night before, keep it in the refrigerator, and heat it up in the microwave for 3 minutes in the morning.  Savory oatmeal is a delicious, healthy and almost effortless breakfast.  Give it a try!

The Best New Whiskey: Kavalan

If I told you that not only does the best new whiskey come from Taiwan, but that it beat out a host of top-notch whiskeys in an international competition, you’d think I was crazy or biased (after all, I am Taiwanese!) or both.  But before you raise your eyebrow and question why Kavalan’s single malt is one of the best-tasting whiskeys on the market, let me show you some hard, non-biased evidence.

According to the famous British newspaper, The Times, Kavalan was the top pick in a connoisseurs’ blind taste test in Scotland.  “It beat a trio of top Scottish blends.” Shocked?  Amazed?  You’re not the only one.  “Oh my God,” commented whiskey-connoisseur Charles MacLean when the result was announced in 2010, the same year Kavalan won a Gold Award and made it into Jim Murray’s 2010 edition of the Whisky Bible, the world’s leading whiskey guide.

Although whiskey isn’t my soul mate like tea is, whiskey has been my choice of poison for the past decade.  I like my poison the way I like my men – strong and quiet. With at least 40% alcohol, whiskey means business.  But more important, whiskey is a quiet drink.  It doesn’t come with artificial color, sugar or an umbrella which screams, “I’m so pretty.  Look at me!” Best of all, it doesn’t give me a bad hangover the next day.

I first heard of Kavalan Whisky from my niece, Hui-jen, when my friends and I decided to tour around Taiwan. She thought my American friends, visiting Formosa for the first time, might enjoy sampling some local whiskey.  Without an actual address, we ventured to Yilan in search of the distillery.  Just as we guessed, Kavalan was very well-known to the Yilan natives and the first person we asked pointed us in the right direction.  When we got to the distillery, the woman in front told us we’d just missed the guided tour by 25 minutes, so we rushed to the second plant, ran through the different rooms where gigantic machines worked in some, where barrels of whiskey aged in others, and finally caught up with the tour. The view of the tasting room, the room at the end of our mad dash, was spectacular – a huge hall packed with a few hundred Asian tourists.  Having no seats, my friends and I sat at the bar and chatted with the bartenders.  And this turned out to be the best experience of the whole tour.  When we asked to sample different whiskeys, the bartender glanced at the other tourists, who were tasting only one whiskey, and told us, very quietly, to wait until they were gone.  Sure enough, when the mass exodus was over, the bartender brought out several different bottles of Kavalan for the four of us to try.  He answered all of our questions and the whiskey certainly quenched our thirst.  By the time we left the distillery we were happily buzzed.

The experts had given Kavalan a big thumbs up.  But what about an amateur whiskey drinker like me who’s only been drinking the good stuff for a decade?  After our personal tasting, I was convinced that Kavalan single malt was the best whiskey I’d ever had the pleasure to drink.  Rich, smooth, with a great after taste, this Taiwanese whiskey was tops.

With a blind-taste-test victory under its belt, along with my amateur’s decree, the question about Kavalan’s rank as a premier whiskey had been answered.  But another question remained:  how could Taiwan produce a top-shelf whiskey that could compete against Scotland’s finest blends?  The Chinese philosopher Mencius believed there are three fundamental elements for success: 天時 (the right timing), 地利 (the right location), and人和 (the right people).  Kavalan was putting out the best new whiskey because King Car, the company that owns the Kavalan distillery, utilized all three elements to delicious advantage.

The Right Location – Great Water with Shorter Brewing Time

Although I don’t know much about making a good whiskey, I know a lot about making a good tea.  Like whiskey, making tea requires only two ingredients and one vessel: water, tea leaves or grain, and a tea pot or cask.  When a beverage has only a few ingredients, it’s harder to perfect and the quality of each ingredient is vital.

King Car chose Yilan as its production site, a decision that makes perfect sense because Yilan’s water comes from one of the top two cold spring resources in the world (the other spot is in Italy).  Pure, cold, clear and odorless, it’s the ideal water to brew a great beverage like whiskey or tea.

Taiwan also has the perfect climate, with its warm temperatures and high humidity, for making great whiskey.  On average, Taiwan is twenty degrees (Celsius) warmer than Scotland and these warmer temperatures mean a shorter brewing time.  In other words, Taiwan requires only about three years to produce a full-bodied, mature, complex scotch, half the time Scotland needs.

The Right People – Scottish Management and Sophisticated Consumers

As you can guess, Taiwan didn’t have much experience making whiskey. King Car was wise enough to hire Scottish management for Kavalan and utilize their expertise.

As you might not guess, Asians are among the most sophisticated whiskey consumers in the world.  According to my first-hand observations, Taiwan’s whiskey drinkers consume, predominantly, high-end whiskey.  Since Kavalan is exclusively sold in Taiwan and Japan, King Car has every reason to produce and market a top-shelf whiskey for the discerning drinker.

The Right Timing – Consumers Are Ready to Spend Money on Premium Whiskey

Taiwan has become an economic power in the world since it transformed itself from a country exporting labor-intensive goods to one producing high-tech products.   With the GDP ranked 19th in the world, Taiwanese people certainly have the purchasing power to afford a top-shelf whiskey.  The timing is right.  I have to admit that Kavalan’s going price, $60 for a 750ml bottle, is very high, especially for a low-brand-recognition whiskey like Kavalan.  And Kavalan probably needs to lower its price (or consumers need to accept the fact that the price for a local-brewed whiskey is much higher than a well-known Scotch).  Still, Kavalan’s taste and texture will make the sixty dollars easy to swallow.  Unfortunately, Kavalan is now only sold in Taiwan and three stores in Japan.  But I’ll keep you posted at Asia By Frida when Kavalan becomes available in the US and other countries.

You can be sure that when we went through customs, our bags contained a couple bottles of Kavalan.

Gan Bei! (Bottom’s up or, literally, Dry cup in Chinese)

Best Sealing Stick

Sealing Sticks – Best New Invention for Storing Food 

Unless we’re really hungry (or really depressed), we usually don’t polish off a bag of potato chips or a package of cookies in one sitting.  It’s the same thing with a bag of dumplings or a sack of rice.  In fact, most products come in bags that are designed to hold more food than you can handle (or should handle) in one sitting.  So what to do with the leftovers to keep them from going stale or prevent them from becoming spoiled?  No clip is big enough to seal a ten-ounce bag of tortilla chips or a fifteen-pound bag of rice.  And even if you’re lucky enough to find a clip big enough to seal these plus-sized bags, it takes Herculean strength to open these mega-clips.  Plus, if the clip is metal, you worry it might rust in the refrigerator.  No one wants that orange, rusty residue smearing their precious food.  So instead of using a metal clip to seal your bag of dumplings, you need to transport your dumplings, one by one, from their original packaging to a zip-lock bag in order to freeze them.  It’s enough to make you lose your appetite—almost!

Sealing Sticks – Best Solution To Seal Any Bag of Food

There are all kinds of clips on the market, but no clip compares to the Sealing Stick I discovered while strolling the night markets during my last trip to Taiwan.  I didn’t go to the night markets expecting to find a perfect product for storing food.  Like most people in Taiwan, I go to night markets to eat and then to walk off the food I just ate.  But more often than I’d like to admit, I end up going home with many novelty products I didn’t know I needed until I saw them.  The Sealing Stick was just such an item.  As I watched the vendor demonstrating all its different uses, as I observed the ease with which even difficult-to-close bags were sealed with a simple zip, I realized this was the gadget I’d been looking for.  Leave it to the Raohe Night Market to make life easy.

Since this product hasn’t yet been introduced to the US, there’s no official English name for it.  So I came up with my own name: the Convenient Zipper Sealing Stick I Always Dreamed Of, or, to save breath, the Sealing Stick for short.  The Sealing Stick is designed to seal all kinds of bags.  It’s made of lightweight plastic and comes in three sizes, small to large.  Each stick has a small handle at one end that looks like a slightly-crooked pointer with a small ball.  What you do is fold over the bag you want to seal, insert the small handle under the folded area, and slide the stick over the entire bag.  Voila!  The job is done.  To open the bag, simply slide the stick off the bag.  It’s completely effortless and you can seal a bag or open a bag in, literally, a second.

As I said, the Sealing Stick comes in three different sizes – 11. 8 1/2 and 7 inches.  You select the size that’s best for your bag.  I use the small sticks for my 0.25-pound bags of tea and the big sticks for my hefty rice bags.  They’re great for storing bags in dry areas and for keeping bags in the refrigerator—no metal means no rust.  And they always keep my food fresh and delicious.  If you’ve been searching for the perfect clip, search no more.

How To Use Sealing Sticks

1.  Fold the bag and place the crooked pointer with the ball under the fold

2.  Start sliding the stick across the bag.

3. Slide it all the way to the other side until the bag is sealed.

4. To open, slide the sealing back towards the crooked pointer.

Buy Sealing Sticks

The Best Asian Hot Sauces – Lao Gan Ma

When it comes to Asian hot sauce, you probably think Sriracha.  It’s the most common brand in US supermarkets and it does the job when you want to add bite to your bites.  But every condiment comes in many shapes, sizes and tastes and there are some fine alternatives to Sriracha if you look hard enough.  For me, the best hot sauces are rich, chunky, flavorful and, of course, hot.  My favorites also share another characteristic—I can actually see the ingredients in the sauce, whether chili peppers, hot oil, pieces of garlic, onion bits or soybeans.  Lao Gan Ma fits all my criteria.  It has complexity.  It has bite.  It’s an outstanding hot sauce.
I first experienced Lao Gan Ma in Tina’s Long Island home the day after Thanksgiving.  Turkey is a very dry bird to begin with and leftover turkey breast tastes just a little bit better than unsalted cardboard.  Tina must have seen my face as I tried to swallow each bite of this foul fowl.  She handed me a jar of red sauce and said, “Here, add this to your turkey.”  Tina is a first-generation Taiwanese whose parents immigrated from Szechuan, China, which means she grew up eating spicy food and lots of hot sauce.  I knew instantly that her sauce would be a fine addition to my dry turkey.  Indeed, all it took was half a teaspoon of Lao Gan Ma and in no time I had miraculously cleaned my plate.  Wanting more of her hot sauce, I asked Tina for more of her turkey.  She smiled and said, “I know you don’t like the turkey.  Do you want some Taiwanese egg-pancakes instead?  You can add the hot sauce on the pancakes too.”  I was nodding my head before she finished the sentence.

Lao Gan Ma has a long history and the company, which started as a one-woman business, has been perfecting this hot sauce for eighty years.  Already a very popular brand in China, the Chinese community in the US started to discover its appeal just a few years ago.  This unique sauce includes crisp red chilies, garlic, onions, soybeans, canola oil, tree nuts and, its most distinguishing ingredient, peanuts.  I use Lao Gan Ma as a both a dipping sauce and a cooking sauce, adding it to flavor many meals: dumplings, fried rice, noodles, hot pot, fried eggs and stir fries.  And on nights when I’m too tired to cook and want something quick and tasty, I simply boil some noodles, mix them with Lao Gan Ma, some light soy sauce, a half-teaspoon of black vinegar and two drops of sesame oil.  It’s delicious.