Monday, July 16, 2012

Family Weekend

This weekend hubby and I visited his parents. They picked us up from the train station Friday night, sleepy-eyed and all. They are the sweetest, nicest people on earth (next to my parents of course).

The next day we all went to attend an event. Because of the sheer volume of people, you had to order lunch beforehand. Thankfully, there were many options to suit different tastebuds, like Korean, Chinese, Mexican and even pizza for the young ones. I ordered a Korean lunchbox, and hubby the Mexican.

Korean lunchbox

I'm happy to declare that this was officially the best boxed lunch I've ever had - everything was right on, including the spicy but not-too-spicy kimchi, the sweetly marinated bilgogi, the crunchy marinated carrots, and the soft tender seaweed. The rice was soft and sweet, just like Korean rice should be. Only downside was the dumpling, which was kind of bland and over fried to the point that the edges were hard to chew. The proportion was just right for someone with a bird stomach like mine, but I think the average person would need at least 2 of these to fill up.

Hubby's lunch on the other hand consisted of steamed veggies, rice and steak. There was nothing Mexican about it, so I wondered if they got the wrong order or description.

This was my Dad's lunch - vegetarian delight with tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots, green peas and vegetarian duck. It tasted pretty soy-saucy, but wasn't bad. The lady sitting next to us had a plastic bowl of udon noodles, which I kind of drooled over after I finished (yes I actually finished!) my meal.

Chinese vegetarian lunchbox

That night we got together for a real family meal. His family has real green thumbs, so they grow almost all their vegetables. There is an abundance of chives, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes, so basically they don't need to do a lot of grocery shopping. They made dumplings with the chives they planted, with ground chicken, and froze it beforehand. Had his Mom not told me they were handmade, I would have thought they were from the store, considering how nicely shaped they were.

Small plates

I really like the fish bowl above. The zucchini and chicken was amazing - seasoned just the right amount to taste like authentic home cooked Chinese food. The zucchini was amazingly fresh too, and the chicken was marinated to the right degree. Our families should open up a Chinese restaurant one day called the Fan-Dan Garden or something.

Home-grown zucchini and chicken

Also love the lightly seasoned bakchoy mushroom for a palate cleanser (not that there's anything needed to be cleansed because his Mom uses the smallest amount of oil possible).

Baby bak-choy with mushrooms

The thinly sliced beef was a bit on the salty side, but pairs with white rice and the mild veggies nicely.

Beef slices


After the meal we chatted about living in NY, our apartment (with roaches and mice and all), and living together as a family. It was really nice and reminded a lot of my own family.

The next morning, I woke up late because I was so tired from the day before. I got out of bed and downstairs, to be welcomed by this...

Morning feast

Alas, his family is Chinese after all. There were mantou (Chinese dough bread), sweet yams, eggs and tomato, Indiana corn, strawberries, cherries, cucumbers, and soup. So many eye-catching colors and flavors that your morning stomach probably can't handle it all. (Only thing missing is coffee =(

Date-ying-er-tapioca soup

This is an uber healthy soup with white mushrooms aka ying-er. The date was amazingly sweet and the chewy tapioca was tender, providing a nice contrast with the melt-in-your-mouth mushrooms.

After brekkie hubby, father-in-law and I went to the garden to reap the season's bountiful harvest. They have an abundant supply of cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and Chinese herbs in their garden. We got 4 zucchinis, 5 cucumbers, and 6 tomatoes alongside to a bunch of Chinese cabbage that day. Only thing was avoiding the buzzing bees that were hard at work and the sticky worms on the vegetables.

Tea-time Snacks

Then after showing/giving me some of her wedding celebratory clothes (like a Korean hanbok!), we had some tea and snacks. I know, I know, the only thing we're doing that day is eat, then walk around/play, and eat some more. But hey, that's what family gatherings are all about, right?

Pu'er Tea

A friend gave me this tea from China, which is actually in the shape of a giant tea-brick that you had to saw off. The packaging is uber cute and authentic - in a hand-woven straw container.

Straw packaging

It's a limited edition, so there's only 300 bricks produced per year. After keeping some for myself, I gave some to both my parents. The tea was rich was full-bodied, and had an earthy texture. This is one tea I can never get sick of tasting!

Cutting off the tea bricks

The tea pairs nicely with the sweet sesame walnuts. His Mom had to stop father and son to keep on snacking, because they were about to finish the entire plate, plus some chocolates that she took out a bit later.

After teatime, we went to the store to get his Dad a tux for the wedding. My father-in-law is really cute, like a little boy in a candy store when he got his tux.

Then we hopped to Shop-Rite, because his Mom needed to get something. As I was getting out the car, Hubby didn't see that I was trying to get out of the same door as him, so he accidentally slammed the door on my ankle. I wobbled into the grocery store, and Hubby tried to deter me from catching up with his Mom, who was ushering us to hurry along. I tried to keep up, but turned out that she was getting a cake. I thought it was because they wanted to eat some cake, but it was actually for a pre-bday celebration for me! I tried to stop her, but alas, it was too late.

We got back and his Mom started cooking. Everything was from a Chinese supermarket like an hour away, including these yellow fish that came in a package (not sure about how safe fish from China is).

Fry em up!

She showed me how to fry the fish - put some ground ginger at the bottom so it doesn't stick, then a thin layer of oil. Then put in the fish and fry until golden brown on both sides. Oh yea before this though you have to skin the scales and intestines, then sprinkle some salt inside so the flavor seeps through. His Mom worked really quickly, getting all this done in 30 min. 

Afterwards, drizzle with vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, and a few slices of ginger to get rid of the smell. Then put in some cooking sherry and water, and let it bask in the simmering sauce for a while to soak up all the favor. Finally, drizzle with green onions for a splash of color.

Next, we cooked more fish!

Fish-ball soup

His parents are from the south, near the waters, so they are real into fish. These are some pre-packaged fish balls with this fresh minty-like vegetable that is a native of their hometown in China.

Fish soup

All you have to do is boil the fish balls until tender (and the tender test being poking a chopstick in it until it fully goes through), and then lightly season with salt and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Monochrome contrast plates

It turned out to be a real family affair, with his Mom hollering his Dad to turn off the TV to set up the table. They are so cute when they bicker. 

Lunch feast

The fish soup was lovely with white, slightly sticky rice. 

Fish soup with rice

Fish ball

The fish ball was tender, chewy and full of oh-so-craved MSG. I especially like the one in the shape of a sausage. The mint veggies taste awesomely refreshing with the saltiness of the fish balls (and makes you feel a lot healthier eating the dish).

Chinese Filet-o-Fish

The fried fish was very rich in flavor. Despite the ginger treatment, you can still taste the smelliness of the fish, so if you're one of those people that get turned off by fishiness, this dish is not recommended for you.

This next dish was really good too. Apparently you soak a block of wood-ears in water for 4-5 hours, and it expands into these edible wood-ear mushrooms.

Wood ear mushrooms with yam and chicken

After lunch, we lounged around a bit, looking at family pictures and chatting. Time was going by really fast though, and soon it was time to leave. Hubby's Mom told me to get my stuff ready to leave, and when I came back...


While I was packing, hubby's Mom pulled a "surprise" bday party for me, complete with decorations, cake, presents, and of course, singing! It was so sweet, and I almost didn't even catch the "Happy Birthday" sign overhanging at the back. (Only thing missing was party balloons!)

I'm turning 4 this year!

The cake was pretty sweet, like your average store-bought cake. You should really eat this with slices of bread as a frosting jam in the middle.

Have a slice of cake!

We ate the cake along with the snacks from tea-time. Funniest thing was his Mom came out with a package of Pringles, and said "we normally don't let your Dad eat this, but for this special occasion..." 
Lol reminds me of the rarity of having McDonald's for my bdays in China. 

It was a lovely family getaway, and I was kind of sad when we left. Well, wouldn't be too long until we see them again.

On the train, Hubby tried to feed a piece of this greasy pizza in my mouth on the train, which I profusely refused, especially after the overly sweet cake.

Pizza on the Train

So I ended up not eating anything from 5pm until I got home to sleep. The result: +3 lds!!! Ahhhh!!! (although hubby swears the scale is off by 8 pds, so he suggests I should eat my weight back)

One funny side note: on the way back home, we got on a taxi with a talkative driver. He is from Kazakhstan, and knows how to speak like a gizillion languages, including his own native language, Russian and Farsi. But he looks like a mixed Korean. Turns out he's one of the fewest people in his country to attend law school, go to America to become a full-time student/ taxi cab driver. The whole ride he was describing how his family is pressuring him to get married soon, and that he was going back home soon to find himself a wife. He also emphasized how difficult it was to find the right someone in NYC, especially given his age (early 30s). "When you're in school and you're young, it's easy to find someone. But after a while, the culture is just not the same," he said.

I'm glad that I found hubby in the big city that never sleeps - my one and only true love <3 (who doesn't mind me hogging all the blankets hehe).

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