Mien Cuisine

Growing up in an Asian culture I’ve had a chance to try a number of unusual culinary dishes, everything from reproductive organs of the female frog to pork blood.

But what I still consider my most unusual food experience came from lunch with a college friend, who was a member of the Mien (or Yao) community. Following the meal, she served a soup that was cold, citrus-y, spicy, and filled with cooked rice flour blocks. It was a convergence of flavors and sensations that I had never experienced before, and my palette didn’t quite know what to make of it. I don’t think I had more than a few bites (probably due to the extreme spiciness).

I’ve written before about how my tastes have changed as I’ve gotten older, so I’m curious whether I would now enjoy the dish. I did a little research, and found out it’s called kaleng phen. It seems pretty easy to make, though I think I’d be wise to try it in a small batch.

Accounting for taste

kates-36th-birthday-3663.jpgAround the time I turned 30, I started liking certain foods I couldn’t stand as a kid. I hear it’s because my taste buds are losing their sensitivity, leading to a need for more intense flavors. I guess it could be worse (like growing ear hair).

Mustard, dill pickles, buttermilk, hot sauce, bitter melon, dark chocolate, and dark beer. These are all on my “like” list now.

While some things have not technically come off the list, I know some things don’t taste the same as I remember them. I used to think Hostess Ding Dongs were amazing, but now I recognize them for the cheap chocolate sugar bombs they are and opt to fill my mouth with something that actually tastes like (and contains) real chocolate. In cases like this, a taste has been refined, as opposed to acquired. However, I don’t think I’ll ever warm to banana-flavored soda.

Phood photography

Food photography has often been suggested as a way to continue shooting during the winter, when it typically becomes harder (and less motivating) to pick up the camera. As someone who likes to cook and is an indoor person at heart (even when it’s a sunny day), it makes for a perfect marriage of interests, although it’s only in the last couple weeks that the two have been wed.

Recently I’ve been trying my hand at making risotto, and in trying to see what should be done with leftovers, I found out about risotto pancakes.


As I mention on the Flickr page, the hardest part about making them was figuring out how much egg to use. When I finally had it down (more egg is better), I realized that it’s not unlike Egg Foo Yung. Maybe next time I’ll whip up some gravy to go along with them.