The Luxurious Canned Sardine


I curled under the comfort of the blanket, trying to catch the last fragments of my dream, but the clatter and sizzle did not leave me alone. My mom was already in the kitchen to prepare her weekend breakfast, sending the sautéed onion fragrance into my room to wake me up. On Sunday, 6 AM. Continue reading


Crispy Baked Tofu with Garlicky Hoisin Sauce



Many moons ago when I was in primary school, street food was frowned upon. Schools derided vendors for lacking basic hygiene standards and blocking their entrance, while parents were worried about unknown ingredients and harmful additives. As kids, these concerns did not trump the little treats they saw when classes ended and the school gate opened. And often, what was forbidden then became irresistible (to me), especially when I was loaded with savings from my pocket money. Continue reading

On Learning and a Marinade That Came About From a Mistake


I grew up in Vietnam where schooling mostly meant studying. We attended classes, jotted down notes, completed homework, took one test after another. We studied much but learned little, for the elusive prestige of getting into yet another good school, securing a stable job and then continuing the circle of life. There was this structured, uncomplicated path that you were advised (or expected?) to follow to become law-abiding functioning members of the society. Continue reading

Butternut Squash in Coconut Milk

When I was younger, I didn’t get the deal with pumpkins. I didn’t like their texture and taste. They reminded me of the mushy congee cooked in pumpkin broth, which was pretty much akin to baby food. And not surprisingly, it was a regular item on the menu of many kindergartens or primary schools. Teacher: “Look at the vibrant orange color! So much nutrition in one spoon!” Me (in silence): “No thanks.” Continue reading

Salut Summer

IMG_2612.jpgDear reader,

Summer is in full swing in Toronto at the moment. People rejoice in the sun, flaunting their collection of tank tops, shorts and yoga pants, while sipping cups after cups of iced tea blissfully. The city is alive, with flowers in their multitude of colors and trees at their prime. Occasionally there are heatwave warnings – temperature could reach 40 degrees with heavy thunderstorms – but hey I spent the last two months in Vietnam! The humidity, the untimely rain when you’re about to go out, the scorching hot sun – all will be a breeze. Continue reading

No-Recipe Beef Stew Recipe

use 2

Dear reader,

For a long time, I thought bò kho (beef stew) – the type my family makes in Vietnam, was impossible without the pre-mixed little pouches of spices found in every mom-and-pop groceries store. You want bò kho? Grab a bò kho kit. Phở? Here are your phở cubes. We took shortcuts because shortcuts were always available, and it would be a crime to spend more time than necessary on something so basic, so ordinary like cooking. Continue reading

Happy New Year

Happy New Year dear reader,

How did you bid farewell to 2018? Did you have a good feast with your loved ones before departing for the countdown? Did you stay up until midnight and live vicariously through random strangers on your screen just to secretly laugh when they hustled back home after the fireworks? Or were you like me, watching a good movie and sleeping at 11:30, feeling reassured tomorrow the alarm clock won’t ring – a day free of all worries and obligations. That is pretty much the best feeling in the world. What can I say, I’m a party pooper. Continue reading

Dear Future Children


Lately I find myself drawn to observing babies/toddlers/children everywhere I go. Some are adorable with their chubby little toes and fingers, their high-pitched voice, their enthusiasm and excitement at all things in their sight. Some are just a bunch of nuisances (for lack of a better word). They cry; they kick; they make scenes. So dear reader, what are the perks then, of being a parent, besides speaking in silly voices to your baby without being judged? I wonder how my parents felt when I was growing up. Was I a bundle of joy or was I a nuisance?

Continue reading