April 3, 2016

Book review: malala’s book from a TCK (third culture kid) point of view


After years of putting it off, I finally got around to reading Malala Yousafzai’s book, which is every bit as inspiring as the reviews say. It exceeded my expectations in that I found it much more gripping than I anticipated, and I was surprised at how much the book documented her and her father’s journey of activism long before the Taliban targeted them.

I also didn’t expect the lengths to which she expressed her deep love for the Swat valley and her identification as a Pashtun first and foremost before as a Pakistani. Indeed, Malala reveals a great deal about the dual nature of Pashtun culture: on the one hand she describes her people as hospitable, generous, and fiercely loyal. For instance, they apparently seldom say manana (‘thank you’) because they believe that kindness can only truly be repaid with more kindness. However, the same principle holds true for offenses, because on the other hand, they have also been known to hold grudges for astounding amounts of time and see no expiry date on when one can exact his revenge. This sort of behaviour is responsible for many of the feuds that have pervaded Pashtun history.

With this notable concept in mind, I was initially thinking of writing a post that compared different cultures in which feudalism has played a key role in shaping normative behaviours. But instead, I’d like to reflect on Malala’s deep ties to her homeland of the Swat Valley from the perspective of someone who has never felt a strong sense of belonging to one particular place. As a third culture kid (see definition here) of mixed heritage who grew up between different cultures and countries, I’ve always been secretly a little envious of people who have a definitive place to call ‘home’ and find security in being bonded to it. And so passages like the ones below that convey Malala’s intense identification with her homeland and the homesickness that she feels while being away from it move yet do not relate to me:

“…when you are exiled from your homeland, where your fathers and forefathers were born and where you have centuries of history, it’s very painful.”

“…we might be the world’s best-treated refugees, in a nice house with everything we need, but we still yearn for our homeland.”

“No Pashtun leaves his land of his own sweet will…either he leaves from poverty of he leaves for love.”

Still, the fact that I find difficulty in empathizing with Malala’s longing for the Swat Valley doesn’t detract from my overall ability to imagine her pain. In fact, the entire book is full of details that are hard to relate to for many people, which is her whole point—namely, that basic rights such as education are still denied to many girls around the world.

Malala’s account certainly inspired me to be appreciative of what I have while striving to make the world better, and I highly recommend it!



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March 23, 2016

packing list: japan & singapore

Soon I’ll be leaving the city again for a trip to Singapore and Japan! Below are a few things that I’ll be packing. As New York is experiencing the last few vestiges of winter, I’m more than happy to skirt away to the tropics for a short while. Most of all, though, I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with my family and seeing the cherry blossoms!




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March 19, 2016

Asian-ifying Pasta: Ume Shiso Pasta ( 梅紫蘇パスタ)


In yet another departure from the original focus of my series, “Asian-ifying Fall Vegetables in the U.S.,” I thought I’d share with you a recipe for a Japanese type of dish that isn’t commonly found in Japanese restaurants in the States: wafū, or Japanese-style pasta (和風パスタ).

I particularly like this one, which I found on Namiko Chen’s website, Just One Cookbook. Although I altered the recipe slightly, I kept the main ingredients, which I love: umeboshi (pickled plums), shiso leaves, and buna shimeji mushrooms. You can also add other Japanese mushrooms if you happen to have them on hand, or some renkon (lotus root) chopped length-ways, which adds a nice texture.

Ume Shiso Pasta ( 梅紫蘇パスタ)

*Recipe modified from Just One Cookbook (see here)

Prep time: 5 mins// cook time: 15 mins// serves: 2

    • 7 oz (200 g) dried spaghetti
    • 10-20 shiso leaves
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 2 bunches of buna shimeji mushrooms
    • 2 or 3 umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums)
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 Tbsp. olive oil (1 Tbsp. for non stick pan)
    • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
    • ¼ cup shredded nori (kizami nori)

1.) Cook spaghetti according to the package instructions in lightly salted boiling water. However, as we will be further cooking spaghetti with the sauce, cook for about 1 minute less than indicated in the instructions. Make sure to reserve about ½ cup of pasta cooking water before you drain the spaghetti in a colander.

2.) Roll up shiso leaves and julienne into thin strips.

3.) Slice garlic and discard the bottom part of buna shimeji mushrooms.

4.) Remove seeds from umeboshi and discard. Then mince into small pieces.

5.) Heat the olive oil on medium high heat and cook garlic until fragrant.

6.) Lightly cook the shimeji mushrooms until they are coated with oil.

7.) Add ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water, soy sauce, and umeboshi.

8.) Add the spaghetti into the pan.

9.) Using tongs, coat the spaghetti well with the sauce. If you need more sauce, add the pasta cooking water and soy sauce to adjust the flavor. Season with salt and ground black pepper, according to your taste.

10.) Garnish with shiso leaves and shredded nori on top.

As this dish doesn’t take much time to prepare at all, I highly suggest it as a weeknight go-to meal!



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March 15, 2016

Colour study: muted royal hues


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March 12, 2016

Scenes from my (last two) weeks

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset{Those Parisian nights!}

Hello again! I’m back in New York after spending two weeks abroad in Europe, and I’m glad that the weather is already warm enough to feel like Spring. As always, here are some scenes from my trip to Spain and Paris!

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset{Walking on a bench like a naughty tourist}

image1{An exhibition on nanban Japanese lacquer in Pamplona, Spain}

image11{Bone marrow with caviar, pickled onions, and chestnuts}

image8{An old favourite at the Louvre}

12778792_10153403715862361_6649380200137333305_o{Midnight in Paris}

{Breton buckwheat crepes}

image6{At Les Chouettes, a beautiful restaurant!}

image10{At a little back garden in Montmartre}



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February 20, 2016

Packing list: Madrid and Paris

Tomorrow I’ll be leaving on a trip to Madrid and Paris! I am so excited. Any trip that allows for both work and leisure is always a welcome idea to me. And what wonderful destinations this time! Below are the wardrobe pieces that I’ll be bringing along, sorted by the outfits that I have in mind:




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February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Vday packingA Happy Valentine’s Day to you as I start to think of things to pack for my next trip! Can you guess where I’m going next?

More in my next post!



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February 12, 2016

A savoury valentine’s day treat: heart-shaped pretzels



Here’s a secret: out of all the U.S. holidays, I think I might actually like Valentine’s Day best. Not so much because of all the fancy date-night associations– in fact, every New Yorker knows that it’s the worst day of the year to go out for dinner– but because so many cute cards, sweets, cheesy messages, and shop window displays come out of it! If you see my pinterest board entitled, ‘MUAH’ (see here), you will see how much of  sucker I am for this stuff.

This year, instead of the usual Valentine’s Day confections, I thought that it would be a nice change to make something savoury for my office. Hence, these heart-shaped pretzels, which were surprisingly easy to make! Below is the recipe that I used.

Heart-shaped pretzels: (makes about 10)

*Recipe altered from twopeasandtheirpod.com

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. yeast (or 1 packet of 2 1/4 oz. active dry yeast)
  • 4 tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 10 cups water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tbsp. cold water
  • coarse kosher salt

1.) Proof the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer by adding the yeast, 1 1/2 cups water and sugar together. Cover with a towel and let it stand for 5-10 minutes until bubbles form.

2.) Add 3 tbsp. of oil and salt. Using the dough hook, add in the flour a cup at a time on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 4 minutes. Alternatively, if you don’t have a stand mixer you can also do this by hand, the old-fashioned way!

3.) Remove the dough from the bowl and pour remaining 1 tbsp. oil into the same bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place it back into the bowl. Turn to coat with oil. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm place (like a low-heated oven) for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.

4.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit/ 218 degrees Celsius. In a large pot bring the 10 cups of water and baking soda to a boil.

5.) Using a knife, dough cutter, or pizza cutter, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll one piece into a large rope, twist the middle into a loop, and join the ends together to form a heart. You can also be creative. Repeat with remaining pieces. Boil the pretzels, two at a time in the water solution for 45 seconds. Drain with a slotted spoon and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

5.) Once all boiled, beat together egg and 1 tbsp. water and brush over the tops. Generously sprinkle with salt. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

**For a sweet (and decidedly non-German) option you can brush the finished pretzels with melted butter while still warm and dip them into a sugar and cinnamon mixture (1/3 cups sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon combined).

I ended up making both the savoury and sweet kinds. My office loved them and I hope you do too! They were really simple to make and a great idea to do with kids.





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February 9, 2016

colour study: mineral pigments


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February 5, 2016

Favourite dishes created during dire times (part 4): carrot cake


Although carrot cakes have existed since medieval times in Europe, they only gained lasting popularity in Anglophone countries during the post-WWII period. As carrots contain more sugar than any other vegetable apart from the sugar beet, they have long been used as sweeteners in cakes during times of scarcity– hence their usage as such during the Dark Ages.

Due to the rationing of food in Great Britain during WWII, recipes were recommended by the Minister of Food, Frederick Marquis, 1st Lord Woolton (1883-1964), and published in newspapers and booklets for the public to follow. One of the most popular recipes was for carrot cake, and although the majority of wartime austerity recipes were happily forgotten once the war ended, carrot cake endured as a favourite dessert. Soon afterwards, the dish caught on in the United States, and by the 1960’s it was a dessert that was commonly found on restaurant menus. To this day, carrot cake is still widely enjoyed by the British public. In 2011, a survey in the Radio Times reported that it was voted the most favourite cake in the United Kingdom.



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