Sunday, March 20, 2016

Nothing Like Mom's Soup!

I've been feeling under the weather lately and wanted something warm and comforting. As I was browsing through all the wonderful things I wanted to buy at Uwajimaya, the oxtails jumped out at me. I can make my mom's awesome luo song tang!

Luo song tang tastes a lot like borscht but without beets. The sweetness of the beets is replaced by the sweetness of the carrots, and in my mom's version, daikon radish. It looks like you can find different variations of this Chinese recipe. Many incorporate potatoes and more tomatoes than my version of ma's recipe.

My mom never wrote down her recipes for me. Everything I learned about Chinese cooking was by watching my mom cook from when I was a toddler through college. She never measured her ingredients, and I never stopped and asked her how much she's putting in. Instead, we chatted about other things going on in life while I served my time as her sous chef. Chinese cooking became second nature to me. By the time I had to cook my own meals, I didn't have to ask her for a collection of her recipes. I bought the ingredients for luo song tang based on my memories of the look, smell, and taste of the soup.

Luo Song Tang with Oxtail Bones
1 small cabbage, chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 medium daikon radish, chopped into semi-circles
3 carrots, chopped
1 large white onion
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
4-5 slices of ginger
2 bay leaves
salt to taste

I remembered that we preferred the lighter and sweeter taste of boiled daikon over potatoes, and I remembered that you need to have good chunks of beef bones to give the broth depth. Whenever my mom was going to braise meat or boil them in a soup, she always par-cooked the meat in water to get rid of the blood and fat. In Western cuisine, you would usually brown the meat in a pan on all sides to seal in the juices. That's really tasty, but I boiled the oxtail chunks this time because I didn't want a rich broth. I wanted a clear and soothing broth.

I chopped all the veggies while the oxtail bones where boiling and dumped them all into a slow-cooker along with the bay leaves and ginger. I added water to the slow cooker about a third of the way up the pile of vegetables. The vegetables release a lot of water, so don't pour too much water!

After the oxtail bones cooked for about 10 minutes, I pulled them out and placed them on top of the veggies in the slow cooker, sprinkled some salt, and I let it cook on high for 8 hours.

Oxtail chunks

Halfway through, I nestled the oxtail bones underneath the veggies. Once the soup is done (trust me, you'll know when it's done by the aroma that fills the kitchen), pull out the ginger slices and bay leaves, and skim out the beef oil.

You can serve the soup with or without the meat from the oxtail. My mom used to reserve the bone meat for the two of us to share after a hard day in the kitchen, and we would dip the meat in Chinese black vinegar. It was a simple but delicious treat!

Thanks for making me feel better, mom, even though you're not here in person!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Ballard Farmer's Market and Lunch at Macleod's

A few weeks ago, we checked out the farmer's market in Ballard for the first time. I was a little bit disappointed by the size and lack of variety, but, hey, I'm thankful that we can even go to a farmer's market in winter! Despite the rain and limited market offerings, Ballard is as charming as ever.

Fairly small market

Awesome floral flavored sodas!

Gorgeous Piopinni mushrooms

Purple broccolini

There were a lot of delicious but pricey eateries around the market. Macleod's was in our price range, and the Scottish seaside ambiance really caught our attention. 


Cute interior

The fish and chips were spot on and the fish tacos were light and citrusy. We liked that the scotch egg came with tasty accoutrements, but I happen to know that eggs past their prime tend to have a flat bottom like this one. I'll let that pass this time. ;-)

Scotch egg with pickled vegetables and cheese

Proper fish and chips

Fish tacos

Scenes from a Typical Work Day in Seattle

 As bad as the traffic is, we feel very lucky to spend some extra time together chatting in the car, listening to music or NPR, and taking in the scenery.

On a clear day, we can see Mount Rainier looming in the distance.
View of Mount Rainier as we drive towards downtown

As we approach the exit to Mike's office, we are reminded by the Space Needle that we really do work in Seattle now.

Space Needle and South Lake Union

I work in the area of Seattle that doesn't get any love on postcards, but the business and industrial activities here defined the city long before Amazon and Google came into town.

Plane parts being transported by rail in the Industrial District

The train tracks run between my office and the Starbucks HQ.

Coffee break at the Starbucks HQ

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Exploring Bothell

Several weeks ago, we continued our exploration of potential neighborhoods to settle down in. As I started working, we've realized that we need to live closer to the city to alleviate our arduous commute. Several co-workers live in the Bothell area and really enjoy it. It's still north of Seattle but not as far north as we are and a bit to the east.

What's surprising about Bothell was the emphasis on the city's history. It may have been a coincidence that we happened to pick out places that were a blast from the past.

We set out for lunch on Main Street and found it cute and not crowded. It looks like the city will be doing a two-phase revitalization project on Main Street to make it more bustling. That would be fantastic as we're always looking for a parking- and pedestrian-friendly area to walk around on the weekend.

Cute mural advertising Woodland Park Zoo (not in Bothell but in north Seattle)

There were a couple restaurants to choose from, but since we haven't had Thai food since moving here, we settled on Pen Thai. The food was pretty decent but not a restaurant I would go out of my way for.

Pad See Ew with Beef

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Before leaving Main Street, we walked down to the bakery to pick up some sweets for an afternoon treat at home.

Hillcrest Bakery on Main Street 

Since it was a rare non-rainy day, we headed to the Park at Bothell Landing. This park is really cool as there's a trail that runs along the Sammamish River, and it has a few historic buildings that you can tour, including the first schoolhouse in Bothell built in 1885!

Trail along the Sammamish River

Sleeping ducks

Bridge over Sammamish River

1893 William Hannan House and 1895 School House

After a nice walk in the park, we checked out antiques at the Country Village. It's a themed outdoor shopping center filled with antique shops, boutiques, and chickens running amok!

We bought a couple packets of loose leaf tea from a boutique and had our own afternoon tea back at home to finish up our day!

Treats from Hillcrest Bakery

We enjoyed Bothell and think that the neighborhood is really livable! It's definitely on our list of options!