Things Consumed

visit the latest entry in things consumed | visit the things consumed archives | return to | subscribe to the feed

Friday, January 01, 2010

Last and first meals

  My final 2009 meal was a late evening, post-nap snack of: a big glass of Italian red wine (Barbera d'Asti), an apple, and a plate of ume soba (bright pink and sweet-smelling, but plain-tasting) with shiitake men tsuyu dipping sauce.

My first breakfast was an apple, a pot of miso soup, and a few squares of coconut white chocolate.

I hadn't been expecting the Japanese theme, but there it is.

Labels: , ,

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:32 AM

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodness to dip your soba in (Men Tsuyu recipe)

  I LOVE Japanese-type buckwheat noodles, especially zaru soba: fully cooked noodles served cold on a tray with dipping sauce, grated radish, and minced green onion.

The dipping sauce, soba tsuyu, is usually problematic for me as a vegetarian: somewhere within it is a dilute stock made with bonito (tuna) flakes. I get around this at home by serving saucy dishes with hot soba, but now I have a recipe for men tsuyu that I've modified to my tastes so I can eat the noodles zaru soba-style. It is based on a men tsuyu recipe from the Australian company Hakubaku: I've substituted sake where they call for white wine, increased the mushrooms, and decreased the sugar used.

-2 cups water
-3 large, fresh shiitake mushrooms, diced or minced
-1/2 cup soy sauce (I use tamari)
-1/2 cup sake
-1 tablespoon of (natural) sugar, such as evaporated cane juice
-1 tablespoon of ginger, minced or grated
-minced green onion, to taste.

Simmer the mushrooms in the water for five minutes; add everything other than the green onion and simmer for five minutes more. Add green onion when ready to serve. This makes about six half-cup servings of mushroom-flavored dipping sauce.

Labels: , ,

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happiness is a bag of fresh shiitake mushrooms

  When I lived in the Richmond District, I had several favorite places to shop. There is Village Market on California at 8th, which had gorgeous produce, wonderful scented candles, and organic packaged food products I loved. There is the Real Food Market on Stanyan, technically in the inner sunset, but a pleasant walk across the park, with tomatoes, squash, and peppers that called out to be photographed. And then there was the May Wah. The incredible, infinite, alarmingly-squid-scented May Wah.

I was old school: I had been going to the old May Wah. Now it is the Richmond New May Wah Supermarket, and it moved to a larger location down the street. Though it still smells like squid, it otherwise does put "super" into supermarket. Thai rahmen, Indonesian curry paste, fresh local noodles, fresh local kimchee (including a type without fish sauce!), fresh local gai lan and other cool greens, fresh local pea shoots, exotically photo-worthy fruit, rolled bean curd sheet, every imaginable type of rice noodle, Japanese hard candies, and an incredible selection of tiny bottles of sake...

When fresh lychee is in season, I will do anything to get to this place. ANYTHING.

I know I'm not alone in loving May Wah, or in dreading the creepy aisles of ooo-smell-me-I'm-dead things in the 'recently live but not now' part of the store. The Yelp reviews on this point are a riot ( (This review, from Kristin T, is my favorite.) But I've been visiting in colder weather now, or I've learned to breathe less, or something, and it doesn't get to me the way it used to. Also, I run through that part of the store first, and then travel to the other half, which seems to have a separate ventilation system.

There are many things in this store which are anathema to localvores, having been shipped far and wide. While I am generally a localvore, I'm also a sucker for Thai rahmen and Kobe's regional sake varieties. There is plenty of fresh local stuff in my basket, but I do top it off with a few items that have traveled too far in moments of weakness.

This week's haul:
-choy sum hearts. These will turn up in all of my noodle soups, miso soups, and chili-garlic stir fries this week. The bag is alarmingly large, but I'm sure I'll make it through.
-fresh bean sprouts. For soups.
-shiitake mushrooms. So flavorful! So pretty!
-fresh Shanghai kimchee (made in Fremont). This particular version contains no fish products that I can discern. It contains napa cabbage, daikon radish (which I think breaks some kind of kimchee rule, but it is tasty), green onion, ginger, garlic, salt, sugar, and chili pepper. I'm munching on this right now. I used to pickle my own cabbage: I think I should try making this for myself. Even if it makes my fridge smell funny.
-May Lin China Vietnam-style hot chili garlic sauce. This is a local brand.
-chili oil. My local brand was sold out, so this was made in China.
-frozen steam(ed) buns containing celery, mushrooms with spinach, or mixed veggies. I [heart] vegan steam(ed) buns!
-three types of soba: cha (containing green tea), ume (containing plum), and inaka (whole buckwheat)
-Thai rahmen, the kind that comes with THREE flavor packets: one for sesame oil, one for soup base (with MSG), and one just for chili powder. The noodles are fried: this cures all kinds of fried cravings in its glorious 100 calories of fat.
-Chinese non-fried rahmen, flavored exotically with star anise, cinnamon, and four types of dried veggies.
-Yellow Thai chili paste. Mae Ploy makes red, green, yellow, masamun, and panang chili pastes, but yellow is the only variety without shrimp in it. (Generally, May Wah carries products containing shrimp in damn near everything that doesn't contain squid: READ LABELS carefully.) This paste contains: lemon grass, garlic, shallots, salt, galangal (which is available fresh in the other half of the store, near the fresh lemon grass and fresh turmeric), dried red chili, coriander seed, kaffir lime peel, cumin, cinnamon, mace, turmeric, and cardamom.

I also bought one of the Brianna's dressings (French) that no one else seems to carry anymore. I saved my fruit shopping for closer to home, since I had a long way to haul these goods back to the Ingleside, and didn't want to push my luck.

I'm a happy camper.

Labels: , ,

posted by Arlene (Beth)7:17 PM

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Totoro is my friend, too!

  Up until February 8th, you can visit The Cartoon Art Museum ( here in the fabulous City of San Francisco to see the really fun, excellent show known as The Totoro Forest Project (

It is a full gallery of gorgeous art inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's Tonari No Totoro, the charming and lovely animated film about two little girls moving to the country and finding new wonders in the forest surrounding them. The art was assembled and auctioned off at Pixar to benefit Totoro No Furusato National Fund, a Japanese forest protection group.

Totoro has many talented friends. The entire show was extremely enjoyable, but some of my favorite pieces included Steve Pilcher's Intruder, in which tiny leaf creatures on a sun-dappled forest floor examine a strange, foreign object, and Luis Grane's They Are Waiting, in which fantastic beings lurk underground, attached to the long, thin roots of a lone, urban tree.

The show is utterly charming, and not just for those of us who are secretly animists who spend our time worshipping forest spirits in all of their guises.

Labels: ,

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:32 PM

Sunday, December 07, 2008

It really is December, isn't it?

  photograph of freshly made parasols drying in a temple hallway, Kyoto, Japan by A.E. GravesI have been back from Japan for a week as of today, but it is taking me a long time to adjust. My body seems more or less to believe that the Pacific Standard Time means something, but my urgent need for naps each midday suggests something remains awry.

At night, I am still dreaming of reading signs in hirigana neon, surrounded by decisively moving crowds, thinking carefully before I speak in hopes of being understood.

When I am awake, I still find it odd that the air near restaurants does not smell like tsukemono (Japanese pickles, which we often passed display barrels of on the street). Even the deep frying smells that are so abundant there are different from those here, likely because of the difference in what is being fried.


I have finally started to review my "real camera" photographs from the trip. I have more than 6 GB of files to look at, which will take a while even though most of that bulk is just big TIFFs, but I've started posting images from the lovely first night in Kyoto. Japan - First Night in Kyoto is a Facebook gallery which you can access without being a Facebook participant. It has shots taken after dinner on a stunningly warm autumn evening, from an experience that was a lovely re-introduction to Kyoto.


At this moment, I am saving up my energy for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's WINTERFEST party, which is happening tonight!!! It is my favorite holiday party, and one of my favorite fundraisers for the SFBC. (My other favorite fundraisers are also for the SFBC, just so you know.)

If you're free this evening and want to shop for art and bike merchandise for yourself or your loved ones while benefiting a fabulous local advocacy group, click the link and get details! I hope to see you there.


It may take me a while to post more images from the Japan trip. There is a lot going on in my life right now, much of which doesn't really belong on the web. But December is a complex month, full of creative projects, communications with people I've lost track of, unusually formal meals, family drama, schedule drama... Ordinarily I would have my holiday cards designed (and hand made!) by now, I would have ordered photo calendars... Projects I would have gotten a jump on during November are still waiting for me to act like I recovered from traveling in Japan. I was just in an art show in New York, and I haven't even mentioned it on my own photography website! It's that kind of time. I'll get (t)here. Soon, I hope.

Labels: , ,

posted by Arlene (Beth)3:40 PM

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I have returned from Japan

  iPhone photo of dry garden at Zuiho-en in the Daitokuji temple complex, Kyoto, Japan
...and am still feeling the effects of the 17 hour time difference. Well, that and the three drinks I had this evening with my co-workers. Ahem.

[Photo: dry garden at Zuiho-en in the Daitokuji temple complex, Kyoto, Japan.]

Everything smells different here. Waaaay different.

My first 150 or so iPhone photos from Japan are up at You can work backward in time from the splash page (in sets of 6 medium images), or you can visit the November archive to see the bulk of the photos on one very long page: the trip photos start on November 17th.

I have a just few more phone photos to post. (I learned a lot about the sort of high volume activities that distress Blogger, which was useful, though periodically frustrating.)

It was a remarkable trip.

I kept extensive notes (especially about food), and took a vast number of "real" digital camera photos which I haven't even downloaded from the memory cards yet. I haven't even unpacked anything but my dirty laundry, so I could wash it before it got any ideas about functioning independently. I'll post an illustrated travelogue when I actually believe that I am in this time zone, which should happen in a week or so.

I have also posted Kyoto Bikes, a Facebook photo album of the bicycle infrastructure and activities I observed during the trip.

At "night" in this time zone, I dream that I am still in Japan, and see neon signs written in Hiragana...

Labels: , ,

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:21 PM

Saturday, May 12, 2007

  japonica riceOde to beautiful rice. I'm a rice-eater, far more than I am a bread-eater. (Do my Polish relatives know?) This likely has something to do with growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there are so many great rice dishes to be had in our very wide range of ethnic eateries. From Carribean-inspired red beans with rice, to saag aloo over pilau rice, to curried roasted veggies over brown basmati rice, to tempura veggies over rice, it's a routine part of my diet.

When I first left home, I ate the same rice my mother used: a long grain white rice that was available in major grocery stores. (We never used any of those 'instant' rices, which are cooked, dehydrated rice. Though I should consider it for camping use.) Then I tried a wide range, from arborio to sushi rice, and gradually switched to jasmine, then to brown, and then brown or white basmati. The brown and basmati rices had so much more flavor, and went well with the hearty, spicy dishes I cook most often. Steven preferred white basmati, so that became our staple rice, and has been for years: we'd buy it in sacks at the Indian grocery or at our favorite health food stores.

All that has changed, and I'm kind of worked up over it. During that trip to Cafe Gratitude with my raw foodist friend, my enchilada dish had come with a delicious, dark rice - not its usual side, which was a red rice they were out of. I didn't catch the name of the dark rice, but it was amazingly delicious, and I couldn't believe that something so good had escaped me for so long. On my next trip to Rainbow I scrutinized the rice selection in the high-up bulk bins more closely, and found what I was looking for: Japonica. Just a day later, while eating at Siam Dish, we were offered a choice between white and brown rice, and we chose brown: but instead of the usual beige-brown basmati, it was the gorgeous, deep purple-black rice I was hoping for. (And oh, is it ever good with Thai food!)

"Japonica," a name used in botany so heavily, is the name of the most beautiful rice I have ever consumed. It's a mix of red, brown, and black grains, all of which are finely detailed. It cooks in a reasonable period of time, with the water turning purple, and the grains taking on a more uniformly deep, dark color in by the time it is done. It cooks to a tender texture, but holds its shape well. (The cooking ratio is 1 part rice to 2.25 parts water.) It is the best rice I have ever eaten, and now it's going to be difficult for me to eat "normal" rice again. I've replaced all ordinary white and brown rice (even basmati) in my house with Japonica.

Now waiting patiently in my cupboards: Chinese black rice and Tibetan red rice.

Labels: ,

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:30 PM

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

comments Return Home