How to summer – cooking for self

The joys of solo summer afternoons at home

There is an urban legend that cooking for one is cumbersome.

Back when I used to go into the office and have physical lunches with colleagues, that was the most popular excuse I heard from my peers in single households. They cannot be more wrong.

Cooking for one is the most fun a girl (or a guy) can have. Here’s how.

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Yangon Snapshots

Oh hello!

It’s been a while.

In the two years that I was gone, Yangon seemed changed but remained the same in so many ways. I had managed to drop by every 6-8 months, and each time, the change was incremental, yet drastic. This post is just me taking note of the sentiments I have noticed personally, from the sidelines, behind the major headlines you may have seen in the news.

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Much ado about egg tarts

Pasteis de Belem. So well-loved all over Southeast Asia as the Portuguese egg tarts.  When in Portugal, I have to have ’em every day!

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The original egg tarts

The original pasteis tastes incredible!  I have a bit of a history with these egg tarts.  One of my assignments during the KFC launch in Myanmar was to sample all egg tarts across town (about five bakeries in total in Yangon) and study their price points and diameters.  You see, in some parts of Asia Pacific, egg tart sales make up about 22% of the chicken shoppe’s top line during festive times.  I find the butterfly effect simply fascinating: monks used egg whites to starch clothes and make pastries with leftover yolk; then separation of the state and the church forced the “conventional” pastries to the open market; centuries later, there I was, accidentally ended up with the duty to sell them to unsuspecting Myanmar consumers under a U.S. name.  I find all of it wacky and fascinating at the same time.

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An Imperial Kitchen

Kitchens are the heart of a household.  One can assess a family’s internal matters by the organization of a kitchen.

At Seoul’s Changdeokgung Palace Complex, a similar idea holds true.

Constructed in the early 15th century, Changdeokgung Palace Complex today still bears the palatial grandeur of Korea’s long civilization, complete with detailed art work on panels and multi-layered roofs.  Visitors admire the royal garden and stately rooms with soft aesthetics found in numerous patterns showcased on the walls, partitions and lanterns.

My impatient local guide from an organized tour tells me about the special sand used in the palace compound, designed to create sound so that an intruding assassin can be immediately detected.  She also tells me about the designated seating chart in front of the main hall where advisors and aides sit in hierarchy denoted by the marked distance from the King’s throne.  “Will the King have to yell?” I ask.  It is a massive court after all.  The guide’s response: “NO!  The King does not need to do anything!

But I don’t care much for all that.

What really stands out to me is the imperial kitchen.  A medium-sized structure with minimalist interior work: white-tiled and sun-soaked through large glass windows.  Locked to modern day visitors, the kitchen’s traces of indoor plumbing and electricity are easily visible.  The kitchen’s classical artwork on the exterior masks the highly modern and simple arrangement of the interior space formerly used exclusively by royal servants.

Changdeokgung Palace is already famous for its indoor heating system through stoves built under each pavilion with smoke channeling out from a standalone chimney next to the structure.  Modern electricity came to South Korea just seven years after the invention of incandescent light by Thomas Edison.  Changdeokgung Palace was already electrified by 1894, which is quite impressive.

Yet, it is a curious thing to see that the modernity of electrification is often masked under traditional design elements as is the case with incandescent light bulbs in the main hall, or relegated to servants as is the case with the sophisticated kitchen operated only by servants.

Of course I am assuming this, but changes have always been uncomfortable.  Changes bring even more discomfort to those who are on the better end of keeping the status quo, like the royalties.

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Changdeokgung Palace Main Hall after electrification

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A proper industrial kitchen with plumbing and electricity

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Changdeokgung Kitchen

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A Korean guide explaining the palatial heating system but not too happy with my questions

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Doing some major lurking