poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Gourmet Homecookin’

Ahoy mateys! I’m blogging from 35,000 feet! A different kind of mile-high club if you ask me. haha.

Last month, JA cooked an absolutely amazing four course gourmet meal for me. Here was the menu and my notes on each course:

– Frisée salad with toasted almonds, green apple slices, and fried parsnips in a citrus vinaigrette. The dressing went really well with the frisee, especially since I find frisee to be too bitter sometimes. I suggested Gruyere cheese next time and JA agreed that it would be a good addition, perhaps in lieu of the parsnips.
– Basil and pine nut risotto with bacon-wrapped shrimp and slices of Parmesan-Regianno. As y’all know from JKL’s rehearsal dinner, bacon-wrapped shrimp are quickly becoming one of my favorite foods.
– Grilled pork tenderloin with mashed sweet potato (w/ honey and brandy), topped with fried leeks. SO good. The meat came out perfectly, and together with the sweet potatoes and leeks, it was just heaven. I’m drooling as I type this, it was so good.
– Blood oranges with chocolate “ganache” and sugar-coated cashews. The ganache was formed into chocolate balls and coated with salt. Traditionally, ganache is made with butter and milk, which JA kindly omitted due to my butter and lactose issues. The chocolate and blood oranges were divine together.
– Two different wines: a malbec to start, and a cabernet sauvignon for the main dish.

Enough talking, let me show you the photos!

Frisée salad with almonds, apples, parsnips, & dried cranberries in a citrus vinaigrette

OMG. Bacon-wrapped shrimp. drool.

Pine nut and basil risotto with bacon-wrapped shrimp, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

Action shot! Pork tenderloin being sliced.

Pork tenderloin with mashed sweet potatoes and fried leeks, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. This photo does not do the dish justice.

Blood oranges, chocolate ganache, and sugar-coated cashews.

Like I said, it was an amazing meal both in taste and presentation, and was definitely on par with the outstanding food I’ve had at Chez Panisse and Rivoli.

Not a man to let anything go to waste, JA took the leftover sweet potatoes and put it to good use. He and his friend KP stuffed homemade ravioli with the sweet potatoes and fried them up for a party. I’ve never had fried ravioli before but these were so good. I managed to get my hands on a couple before they were all devoured within minutes.

Fried sweet potato ravioli. Awesomeness.


Lab Lunch @ Great China

I would definitely count lab lunches at Great China as one of the perks of my job. Sure, the lunch specials are pretty good when we go in small groups, but when we go as a big group (usually about 15-20), we order a lot of special stuff, like Peking duck and Double Skins (see below). Plus, the boss pays, and who doesn’t love a free lunch? We’ve even got ordering down to a science (pardon the pun): my boss carries a card with all of our usual dishes written on it, and he’ll recite it to the waiter. Then the waitstaff usually does portion control for us, so that we’re all perfectly satiated by the end of the meal.

The all-important menu.

The occasion for this particular outing was to mark the end of S’s rotation in our lab. I didn’t take a picture of everything — some of the dishes were placed on the other table, and half of the plate was devoured before I could take a photo of it. But luckily for you, I made sure to capture the special dishes before the hungry scientists got to them first!

The weirdest but most delicious dish: Double Skins.

We usually start off with soup (though we didn’t this time) and a dish called Double Skins. I’ve never had this anywhere else. It resembles a cold jellyfish salad, but they’ve also added shrimp, egg, chicken, black/ear mushrooms, noodles, carrots, onions, cucumbers, sea cucumbers… and some other stuff I can’t recall. One of the best parts is the “dressing” — a mixture of spicy mustard and soy sauce (and probably vinegar too) that really gives the whole dish a savory kick. Despite its odd ingredients, everyone loves this dish. As biologists, we also play a dorky game of “Name the phyla.”

Walnut prawns

Another lab favorite is walnut prawns, which are jumbo prawns fried in light batter in a sweet citrus mayo-based sauce. With walnuts, of course!

Peking duck

All dressed, with hoisin sauce and chives atop a pancake.

As I mentioned above, Peking duck is another old stand-by. It’s really good at Great China.

Da dou miao (large pea sprouts)

We usually like to order a few veggie dishes to balance out all of the meat. Dou miao is one of the green leafy vegetables that tastes great stir-fried with garlic, salt, and pepper.

Sauteed crab meat, with egg and ginger scallion sauce.

Crab meat, post-mixing

steamed buns for the crab

This sauteed crab meat dish is one of my favorites. It comes piping hot from the pan, and the raw egg gets cooked as it gets mixed in with the crab along with the sauce. Stuff the crabmeat into the accompanying steamed buns (mantou) and you’ll have yourself a tasty little sandwich. SO GOOD.

Not pictured: chicken with eggplant, braised tofu, and dry braised green beans. Because we’re a big group, they usually bring a large plate of navel orange slices and fortune cookies at the end of the meal. Even though the service is sometimes lacking, I love the food at Great China. Yay lab lunch!

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Japan Trip: Odds & Ends

It’s with great relief and a tiny bit of sadness that this is my last post about my Japan trip. It’s been fun to blog about, and I hope y’all have enjoyed learning a little bit more about Japan and its cuisine as much as I did during my trip! Here are a few odds and ends of things I ate or drank that I thought were worth mentioning:

1. Okonomiyaki
A Japanese pancake filled with lots of stuff, depending on the region. “Okonomi” means “what you like” so it’s really whatever you want to put in it. This particular okonomiyaki was filled with squid, egg, shrimp, and veggies, topped with shredded seaweed and okonomiyaki sauce. I went to this okonomiyaki establishment with my fellow Kyoto hostellers, where they only served one version of okonomiyaki. However, I’ve also heard there are okonomiyaki places where you can pick out what you want to eat from a salad bar or a menu and have your okonomiyaki cooked to order. This particular okonomiyaki was just ok, but pretty economical. My meal cost about $9 including a large draft beer. Good deal!

2. Convenience store rice balls
These were great snacks on-the-go. Not only were they cheap (about $1.50) but they were really tasty too! This one was filled with salmon. To keep the seaweed fresh, they keep it separated with plastic. With typical Japanese ingenuity, there was a really clever design on the wrapping that allowed unwrapping of the plastic without separating the rice ball. It was the equivalent of grabbing the tablecloth off the table without disturbing any of the plates or cutlery. It took me a while to figure this out, but once I realized that there was a numbering system, it was pretty easy. Highly recommended!

3. Kirin Lemon
Some of you might recognize Kirin as a Japanese brewery, but they also make a variety of non-alcoholic beverages, such as Kirin Lemon. It tastes like a less sweet version of Sprite and is super refreshing. Plus, don’t sodas just taste better from glass bottles?

4. The best bowl of instant noodles.
As the creators of instant noodles, the Japanese have got an unsurprising variety of instant ramen. Since hot water dispensers and electric kettles are a commonplace appliance in many hotel rooms and hostels, these bowls of noodles are a great snack. The one pictured here is miso ramen flavored. I should’ve taken a photo of the FOUR flavor packets it came with, including freeze dried shittake mushrooms. It was awesome and the most elaborate cup of noodles I’ve ever made. Yes, it was more expensive than its American counterparts at about $3/bowl but still well worth the money.

5. Eating at the train station.
There were a TON of restaurants in the Kyoto Train Station. I was tempted to return to ramen alley but since I had my luggage with me, I decided to go to one of the more traveler-friendly restaurants on the main level. As this was likely my last big meal of the trip, I went all out, ordering a huge set meal: salmon sashimi and roe with egg over rice, vegetable tempura, soup, and an egg, tofu, and pickle platter. I looked around and didn’t see anyone else eating this much. I’m sure the waiting staff were whispering to each other, “That’s the American girl who eats like a pig.”

6. Eating at Tokyo Narita Airport.
As with every international trip I go on, I try to use almost all of my foreign currency before I leave. I ate a big bowl of ramen for breakfast at Kansai International Airport. Then I flew to Tokyo, where I had an 8 hour layover. I spent part of that time working, another part getting a 20-minute massage at Raffine Refloxology (highly recommended! about $20/20-minute massage), and some of it eating. I got curry, which I hadn’t eaten my whole trip (pictured). For those who don’t know, Japanese curry is very different from Indian curry. It’s sweeter and much less complex, relying mostly on curry powder. This curry was decent, but I was annoyed at the fact that the coke, an impulse purchase, cost almost as much as the curry!

That’s all folks! Hope all of your meals are as oishii as my Japan meals were!

p.s. Some of you might remember that I stayed at a capsule hotel in Osaka. That was a funny experience; this NY Times article about the jobless resorting to long-term stays in capsule hotels — not so much.