Category Archives: Sherry Travels

New Year Resolution (With a Twist): Workout Yes, Burger Yes

Sure as pairing Japanese green with Castella sponge cake or ordering my coffee extra hot, I have once more listed “workout more” as one of my new year resolutions.

I am not alone. Fitness and health resolutions are a January fixture — the most common New Year resolutions have to do with improving one’s physical fitness, with “exercise more frequently” and “loose weight” being the most common, according to a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive online survey of U.S. adults.

While the survey also pointed out most fitness- and health-related resolutions dissipate by mid-year, I have decided to reverse the trend, committing to a sunrise and morning workout on the beach.

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Starting the new year with oceanside sunrise! (January 2017/Crystal Cove)

  • Commitment 3.8/5 stars (A January 2 start date is not as good as January 1, but decent)
  • Sunrise 3/5 (Rainy and cloudy, but the sky lit up around 8 a.m.)
  • Duration 4.2/5 (Hiked/Walked for approximately one hour 30 minutes)
  • Breakfast (… … …)

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American obsessed: “Those lovely, lovely Irish sheep!”

Traveling to Ireland for the first time, what impressed me the most was neither North Antrim Coast nor the amount of Guinness Dublin-ers consume, but Irish sheep. Yes, you heard me correctly, I said sheep. Along my train ride: from Dublin to Belfast, from Belfast to Dublin to Galway, whenever I saw them, I would gesture excitedly, grab my friend’s arm and cry, “Look, sheep!”

My British friend gaped in awe and said, “Do you not have sheep in America? You know outside London we have sheep, just like these right?”

Alas, how do I explain my conviction that Irish sheep — set against blue sky and green grass — are somehow extra fluffy, and most likely extra special. Thank goodness my obsession is not alone. I was able to dig up an article from Boston Irish Reporter, titled “Hello sheep lovers: Ireland is the place for ewe” to prove my sanity.

Blue sky, green pasture, and fluffy, cloud-white Irish sheep! (image credit: www.premier1supplies.com)

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Breaking Bread, when it’s that good get two

The humble baguette, in its most basic form, requires no more than flour, yeast, salt and water. It’s very white, and very French. But despite the simplicity, a good loaf of baguette is not easy to find.

What makes a good loaf?

The juxtaposition of the perfect crunchy exterior and soft interior complete with large irregular air holes. The crust is rich, dark golden, which indicates the robust caramelized flavor. Additionally, the crust is crunchy yet breakable by hand and the texture moist, slightly chewy and nutty in favor. Like ordering spaghetti bolognese at Italian restaurants, whenever I want to test the quality of a new bakery, I start with baguettes. And yesterday after a visit to the Union Square Green Market, I returned home a happy camper carrying a variety of young kales and two loafs of baguette from Bread Bakery.

Bread Bakery baguette, 2 for $6 (image credit: www.nyhabit.com)

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Tasting love: “Ice Kacang Puppy Love”

When it comes to the best one plus one, Baba Nyona — the mix of Chinese and Malaysian culture, cuisine is a hard one to beat. In addition to an impressive long list of Mee (see previous post), there are also an array of delicate, colorful sweet rice cakes Kuih for dessert.

Traditional "Kuih" (image credit: Hotel Armada/kuali.com)

Traditional “Kuih” (image credit: Hotel Armada/kuali.com)

The word Kuih(粿)came from the Chinese, but the Nyona version incorporates local ingredients such as coconut milk and pandan leaves. Coconut milk adds an exotic sweetness and pandan leaves, a herbaceous tropical plant with long green leaves commonly found throughout Southeast Asia, lend a unique taste and aroma to the foods. And when used in cakes and desserts, padan paste turns the sweets vivid green.

From layered pink-and-white Kuih Lapis to dual-layered Seri Muka (padan custard on top, steamed glutinous rice on the bottom) to tube-shaped Kuih Ketayap (pandan crepe wrapped around dark brown coconut filling), these chewy, bite-sized snacks will make you think twice about dismissing glutinous rice.

Another must-try is Cendol, a drinkable, soup-like dessert that soaks green jelly noodles (the green color comes from pandan paste) in coconut milk and palm sugar.

But all in all, my ultimate favorite dessert is red bean shaved ice. Known as Ice (Ais) Red Bean (Kachang) in Penang, and ABC (Ais Batu Campur or mixed ice) in the remaining Malaysia, the dish comprises of shaved ice topped with brown sugar syrup, red beans, various types of jelly and other dressings like ice cream or corn kernels.

My fondness for the dessert derives not from taste (because frankly, this version pales in comparison to Taiwanese-style shaved ice), but sentimentality for the 2010 romantic comedy “Ice Kachang Puppy Love” (《初戀紅豆冰》).

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What are shades of grey, when you have 50+1 shades of black

Portraits of Flemish painter Anthony van Dyke (1599-1641) are typically dark, a technique typical of the period using a semi-dark background to highlight the subject.

The mastery of van Dyke’s use of black (various shades of it), white and gray is most alluringly presented in the portrait of Frans Synders. Set against a billowing black drapery and enveloped in a rich cascade of black – black doublet lined with a wired, lace trim collar, black cloak – Synders’ elegantly aristocratic face and hands are further accentuated. There is something grand and mysterious with his stare, and, oh, those beautiful fingers…

One should never gape at a painting with less-than-just-admiration thoughts, especially standing in the Frick Collection‘s handsome West Gallery. But you have to admit, he is devastatingly handsome. In fact, Synders (in addition to being wealthy) is a Flemish painter of animals, still live and, often violent hunting scenes. How’s that for having a darker side, Christian Grey?

Van Dyke, “Frans Snyders” circa 1620/oil on canvas (image credit: commons.wikimedia.org)

If you have not yet been to the Frick Collection in the Upper East Side, you should take advantage of its Sunday “by donation” program. Compared to other art museums, the Frick Collection, being the former residence of Pittsburgh industrialist/collector Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) and a museum, offers an interesting viewing experience. Painting and sculpture aside, the Gilded Age mansion, including ceiling, vase, lamp, furniture, etc., the entirety is art.

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Best of Penang Street Food Fest, Mee Mee Mee

Malaysia’s richness, whether it’s food, dialect or culture, derives from the intermingle of different ethnic groups, predominantly the Malay, Chinese and Indians. In Penang, where Chinese immigrants dominate,  food is further enriched by the marriage of Chinese and Malaysian cultures (known s babas and nyonas), literally and metaphorically.

Best of Penang street food (image credit: misstamchiak.com)

To get a glimpse of the awesomeness of one (Chinese) plus one (Malay) is more than two, just go through the list of noodle dishes the city has to offer:  Continue reading

First sip of Penang: OldTown White, OldTown Nan Yang

As of Monday, 9:00pm, New York weather read:

Temperature: 12°C (54°F)
Precipitation: 36%
Humidity: 95%
Wind 12mph

I felt the humidity without consulting the weather app, for one, my hair was damp and frizzy. But I relished the wetness as it reminded me of my one-month Southeast Asia trip, starting with Malaysia (Chinese New Year in Penang, Malaysia).

Arrival, Kuala Lumpur

January 31, 2011: Kuala Lumpur

The photo on the left was taken when I landed in Kuala Lumpur, after a 5+ hour flight from Seoul. From here I would take a connecting flight to Penang. Groggy, tired yet exhilarated (I am here), I stepped into the humid dawn. It was 5:17am and drizzling. The air smelled pregnant, full of water. My pores gulped the wet air. I hate to be overly dramatic, but at that moment, I thought, “Ah, rejuvenation. I am once again in a humid country where 10 years down the line, Forever young, I will be forever young…” (“Forever Young” video link).

I was, after all, born in Taiwan and a firm believer that staying hydrated is the ultimate youth serum.

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It takes not working to fully appreciate, say Easter and Chinese New Year

What’s in a holiday if it does not come with vacation days? Not much, in my opinion.

(image credit: thecapecodmom.com)

In that regard, Easter is very much like the Chinese New Year. In the sense that both holidays have ceased to be significant once the perks — chocolate eggs and money-filled red envelops, respectively, stopped. But this year, getting Good Friday off (for the first time ever!) has propelled me to acknowledge Easter as a legitimate, celebratory-worthy holiday.

Which, brings me back to Chinese New Year.  Continue reading