Taiwanese “Empanadas” with Caryn Hsu of Hemsmith

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Caryn and I have been friends for a few years now. We met through mutual friends and bonded over our love of drunk eating (and cooking), amongst other things. She’s a fellow cat lady who has one of the smartest kitties I’ve ever seen! (Chicken knows how to walk on a leash! On the street! In New York! What!?) Recently, she’s added onto her family by adopting an adorable, deaf pup from Egypt named Moose. Sounds like the most charming sitcom ever, no? I mean, I would totally watch it.

In addition to having the cutest pet posse ever, Caryn is also the founder and creative director of NY based brand Hemsmith, creating dope minimal essentials for your forever wardrobe. All the pieces are handmade right here in beautiful NYC. Do yourself a favor and go check them out here.

Recently, Caryn and her little family moved into their new apartment in Long Island City, just a few blocks away from her factory. About a month ago, she invited a few of us over for an informal, impromptu housewarming…and to make us her favorite childhood food:韭菜盒子, which directly translates to “Chive Boxes” in English. She first described them to me as a Taiwanese Empanada…in which I emphatically responded “when and where?”

Over a tasty dinner of these gigantic, hand-held dumplings and homemade buffalo fried chicken, we chatted about her thoughts on growing up in Taiwan versus the US, environmentalism, her foray into composting as a hobby and why these Chive Boxes are so special to her. Special shoutout to our friend Cassie Lam, founder of Akin, for joining in the conversation. More after the break!

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Roasted Honey Glazed Carrots with Feta, Cranberries and Hazelnuts

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I’ve been making one variation or another of this roasted carrot salad for the better part of this year. What started as a fridge-cleaning experiment has become my go-to dish whenever I have people over for dinner. It’s super quick to throw together, and pretty easy on the eyes too.

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Coconut Curry Kabocha Squash Soup

IMG_3570Here’s a deliciously warming soup, easy enough to make on a weeknight after a long day at work. Super nutritious kabocha squash is simmered in coconut milk and spiced with garam masala along with some other good stuff. The result is a creamy and surprisingly filling soup, perfect for this sweater weather we’ve been having in Brooklyn.

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Brown Rice Jook with Shiitake Mushrooms

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I was really struggling last week. After finally succumbing to the relentless cold that has been plaguing the office (and all of New York City, it seems) for weeks, I took two days off. Sometimes, when you’re body is running on fumes, you just have to listen to it and slow down.

Growing up, whenever I felt under the weather my mom, grandmother and aunts were always armed and ready with an arsenal of random traditional Chinese remedies. There was always a specific cure for whatever ailed me at the time. Their repertoire included pungent antidotes like Tiger Balm (an old-school, Chinese Vick’s vapor rub on steroids) for when I was congested,  and “Dit Da Jao”, a soy sauce-colored herbal wine used to rub on my many bruises (I was a clumsy kid).

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Pomegranate “Jeweled” Brown Rice Pilaf

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Growing up, I was raised by a rotating crew of relatives while my parents worked. When it came to dinner, each family member had their own specialty. When I think about my mama (my grandmother on my dad’s side), I can remember her soy sauce braise chicken and shiitake mushrooms simmering on the stove top. My aunt favored lighter dishes, and often times made us steamed fish with scallion and ginger. I can vividly remember a period in my life when I ate pan fried pork chops at least three times a week when my gongong (grandpa on my mom’s side) lived with us.

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Healthy-ish Creamy Butternut Squash Rigatoni with Lemon and Arugula

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During the week, in order to keep my life from spinning out of control and maintain some semblance of routine and self-care, I’ll try my best to eat “healthy-ish”.

This is mainly done to counteract my weekends, which is an entirely different story thats often sang to the tune of laissez-faire indulgence and complete gluttony.

“Healthy-ish” to me used to mean eating take out sushi three times a week (what? Sushi is healthy…right?) After being continually shocked by my seamless bills month after month (those salmon rolls really add up), I’ve turned a leaf and have made a concerted to focus on nourishing myself through cooking and eating my own food.

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