Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The curtain of the food photo contest fell......

Since starting this blog was inspired by attending the food photography contest, I think I should complete the story. Check out this link Winner of the food photography contest Yes, I won the first prize!!! hooray~~~ This is really out of my expectation. I found out this contest on July 28th, only two days before it closed. I hurried to buy ingredients and dishware and finally sent out my photos on the deadline day. Only a couple of days later, I got emails saying both my photos were selected into the final. At that point, I was already extremely surprised. Then, I had the feeling that I might win something, but didn't expect to win the biggest prize. I was totally overwhelmed when I went to Leite's Culinaria website on the night of the 30th, and saw my curry coconut noodle soup photo popped up on the home page.

I want to say congratulations to all fellow winners too. You all did a great job as well!!

I wanna share some my technical summary to the curry coconut noodle soup shot, maybe you'll be interested.

1. I love back lighting. The white background makes the food more appetizing. Back light also makes photographs clean and simple, washing off unnecessary extras.

2. I love color. I always try to make photos colorful.Contrasting colors can make  balanced visual sensation if used properly. In this photo, the main color is of course yellow, but it's boring if it's just yellow. So, I used cilantro and lime to chill out a little green, red pepper powder to spice up some red heat, and the blue dishware to create some calm feeling.

3. Repetitive composition. Used by many professional food photographers, repetitive composition creates unity and harmony, and fills up the whole photograph. Having something blurry on the back also emphasizes the clear subject in the front.

4. Match dishware with the food subject. I was thinking how to make this food photograph stand out before shooting. This noodle is different from other pasta dish because it's an Asian food. How can I emphasize this distinction? By using Asian looking dishware!! I bought the bowls and plates especially for this dish, and I already had the china spoon and chopsticks. They matched so well. Even the crosses on the spoon match those on the bowl, though I got them from totally different places.

5. I used natural light. Very diffused and easy to work with. 

If you have more questions, feel free to leave me comments and I will try my best to answer.

Corn and jalapeno

This is a super simple and appetizing summer side dish. When I was growing up, my family always ate this in the summer along with congee.  

2 corns
4 jalapeno pepper
cooking oil 1tbsp
salt to taste

1. Chop jalapeno peppers and peel corn from the ears
2. Heat a pan and add the oil
3. when it starts smoke, add corn and pepper to stir fry for about 15 mins until the surface is a little burnt.
4. Add salt to taste. Turn off the heat and serve.

It is also good when served cold.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Simple Korean home meal-Shots for a korean restaurant

This weekend, I carried my portfolio and business card to go over local restaurants, talking to managers or owners about shooting them free photos which they can use for promotional purpose while I practice photography skills. This Korean restaurant was the last stop which i almost hesitated to go in the first place. It's a small take-out place which has only one room with kitchen and front desk all together, but that's OK. I am here to shoot some Korean food, who cares about how nice or not nice the restaurant itself is. The owner lady was very very nice. After hearing my purpose, she said:"Come back at 6!"

They didn't have much business that evening, so I just shot three Korean home-cooked dishes they would have for dinner.

This following food is Korean BBQ baby back ribs, which they don't put on the menu but just for themselves. The bright color and thick sauce is mouthwatering.  I tried one later, juicy and tangy.

Stir-fry rice with sausage, eggs, and carrots in it. 

Side dish is kimchi cucumber

Friday, August 27, 2010

Coconut curry beef stew

After dinner, I got on my bike to have a “digestion” ride.    The temperature after sunset dropped to 63, and it’s still  August! Although I put on a long-sleeve jacket, it’s still a little chilly outdoors, but once I started riding, it felt simply pleasant. The breeze blew against my cheeks, my legs, and through my loosely tied hair to make it messier. I feel such freedom on bicycle wheels as if they could take me to anywhere. Behind our neighborhood is a hill, on top of which perches an elementary school. I rode up the winding hill to the school, and rode 8-shapes on its empty and big parking lot. Beside is a playground built at the edge of the hill, with slides, swings and a climber installed. I climbed to the top of the climber, overlooking our neighborhood from a different angle. The shopping center and fast food restaurants were lighted to make this place a bit lively, and a sea of woods dimmed at dusk in the distance. At my back, rosy evening glows were so dramatically beautiful, but giving away to the descending night mist.

I felt so calm and satisfied at this moment at this place. It's like a spiritual domain to get away from the daily routine, no worry about future, no worry about anyone, just enjoying the beautiful scene and thinking of nothing. This is real quality time!

I wanna share this coconut curry beef stew today. Coming from a city known for its spicy food, I am no exception! I just LOVE everything spicy. I always almost wanna attend one of those hot wing eating contests. Spiciness is no problem, but I am afraid I can't finish the quantity within time limit. After referring to some recipes from Thai and Indian cuisine, I fused them into this one dish. It is so good with steamed rice.


2 lb beef stew
5 tbsp hot curry powder
½ can coconut milk
1 tbsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
2 medium carrots
2 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
A handful of fresh basil

1. Cut beef stew into cubes. Chop onion into small pieces (to thicken the sauce). Peel carrots and potatos and cut into cubes.

2. Remove the blood in the beef by boiling it in water for 2 minutes. Drain the beef.

3. Heat 3 tbsp of cooking oil on medium high, brown the onion and then add beef to stir fry for 2 minutes.

4. Add curry powder, cumin powder, salt, coconut milk and one cup of water. When boiling, cover the lid and turn down to low heat to stew for 2 hour. When liquid is drying out, add more water. Or transfer the food into a slow cooker and set on high for 4 hours.

5. 3o minutes before done, add carrots and potatos.

6. Add basil before turning off the stove.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fall is around the corner-cinnamon apple sauce

It was raining all day last Sunday, chilly and damp outside. Hearing the patter of raindrops falling on my window pane, I told myself the summer was over. The most beautiful and tolerable season in this little town. Waiting for me is the lasting forever, cold-to-the-bone winter. Maybe before that, a short chilly fall. Monday was still drizzling a bit. I was driving past the community college when lots of red big dots in the grass beside the road caught my attention. What's that? so weird! Mushrooms are the first thing that came to my mind, especially after the long rain, but big bright-red mushroom? Then I saw more red dots hanging on the trees above, and realized they were APPLES!! I collected a bag of fresh, organic, sweet apples right from the apple trees, and made this delicious cinnamon apple sauce.

4 med. apples
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. sugar (white)
1tsp of ground cinnamon
1. Peel, core, and cut the apples into quarters. 
2. Put cut-up apples, sugar, cinnamon, and water into a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and cook at medium heat (simmering) for 30 minutes or until mushy .
3. Transfer the mixture into a food processor to puree. Let it cool and it's ready to serve!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Authentic Kung pao chicken

When you go to a Chinese take-out place, you can't miss Kung pao chicken. It's almost a representative of Chinese food in American people's mind. Of course, the American version! As a Chinese, I simply can't appreciate how this dish is like in American Chinese restaurants. Well, I am not arguing that it shouldn't be changed in other countries to cater to the local taste. On the contrary, it makes perfect sense to do so, but it just doesn't fit my memory. My hometown is Chengdu, the capital city of the southwest Sichuan (Szechuan) Province of China, also the paradise of hot and spicy food.Yah!! Maybe you have heard of Sichuan pepper, Sichuan sauce, or sichuan style this or that. That's right, I am from there; so is Kung Pao chicken. The name came from a government official with the rank of Kung Pao, who invented this chicken dish during his term of office in Sichuan,in Qing Dynasty.

Ingredients: chicken thigh or tenderloin, roasted or fried peanuts, cooking wine, oil, salt, sugar, vinegar, dry red chili pepper, green onion, ginger, garlic, starch or cornstarch (this is the secret to make thick sauce), Sichuan pepper, sesame oil


1. Dice a packet of chicken into small cubes.

2. Put the diced chicken into a bowl and add one teaspoon of salt, two tablespoon of soy sauce and some starch or cornstarch to marinate for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cut the red pepper into 2cm long. Peel off 3 cloves of garlic and slice them. Slice about 5 pieces of the ginger. Wash and chop two green onions into 1cm long pieces.

4. Take a small container, add 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar, 2 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 2 tablespoon of cooking wine, and 1 tablespoon of starch, mix well.

5. Add some cooking oil into the wok, heat it with high fire. Add dry red pepper and prickly ashes, until you see the red pepper turns darker( in order not to burn the pepper, you should not make the oil too hot), then immediately add chicken and stir fry it , then add sliced ginger, garlic and chopped green onion. Keep stir frying until you see the meat becomes white.

6. Mix the mixed ingredients again(coz starch precipitates) , and pour them into the wok and keep stir frying till all chicken is covered with the sauce. Turn down the stove to medium after it starts to boil. Since starch is added, the sauce will become thick soon.

7. Turn off the heat when the sauce is thick enough, and add peanuts, mix them with the chicken thoroughly.

Note: all the amounts of the ingredients I mentioned above are estimates. Chinese cuisine doesn't measure by measuring tools, but mostly by personal preference and experience,so if you don’t like the flavor, you can adjust the ingredients amount as you like.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Japanese tuna spaghetti

I’ve been reading Eat Pray Love these days as many people are doing. In case you don’t know, it’s about the traveling experience of a divorced woman in her early 30s to Italy, India, and Bali to pursue her pure love of food, language and maybe freedom and her devotion to divinity finally found her happiness again. My favorite part is when she lived in Italy. The simple enjoyment of idleness —practicing a new language, making new friends with the local, wandering around a country with loads of amazing ancient architectures and a rich history which take chapters of a textbook to illustrate, and ultimately stuffing the stomach with scrumptious food. Every woman needs to take a break just like this from the day to day routine, the responsibility the society imposes upon us to be a good employee, wife, mom, friend and children. Just get away to be yourself, to do something you always wanted to do. Socialization is a passive and stealthy process of addition. Man is born without a piece of cloth to cover the body. Thus nothing to worry about. Then he gets education, friends, family, job, children, house, respect, status……The more he gets, the more to bear on the shoulders. Realizing this, intentionally doing subtraction every now and then is the way to find back happiness, pure and simple happiness.
Back to food! In my childhood, summer meant five things to me-watermelon, ice cream, grapes, swimming and long long summer breaks. We always ate light food during the hot season. I have learned this Japanese tuna spaghetti to cater to my husband’s love for pasta and my need for light food. It is a common dish in Japan that combines western pasta with Asian seasonings. My husband said "if there’s anything I can’t stop stuffing my mouth with until the last bite, this is definitely one."

1 package of spaghetti
1 can or package of tuna
1 Green onion-chopped
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Minced garlic 1 clove
Japanese soy sauce 2 tbsp
Salt and pepper
Nori seaweed rice seasoning to taste
Butter to taste

1. Cook pasta as instruction.
2. When the pasta is about to be done, heat a deep pan and add olive oil, and minced garlic to stir well.
3. Remove the water or oil in the tuna and add into the pan to stir fry. Then add half of the chopped green onion to stir fry until it’s soft. Add soy sauce and mix well.
4. When the pasta is done cooking, turn off the heat and leave aside about 2 tbsp of boiling water. Drain the pasta and add it into the deep pan. Add the boiling water to to mix everything well.
5. Add the remaining half of green onion to stir fry. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat.
6. When serving, sprinkle seaweed and a piece of butter onto the pasta. Mix well and it’s ready.

Here is the seaweed rice seasoning picture:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

first blog here

 I have thought about blogging for quite a while, but I was hesitating whether I'd have enough time and care to maintain the blog once I start it. I don't want it to be like one of those new year resolutions people start ambitiously but soon trail off because ambition fades faster than we expect.

Something prompted me to start it is that I attended a food photography contest recently, and to my surprise, both my photos submitted on the deadline day were selected into the top 10 finalists. (see here http://leitesculinaria.com/49676/culinaria-food-photography-finalists.html) Not until this day did I realize maybe my photos were not bad. I was encouraged to a large extent by this contest and finally decided to start my own blog.

I am a foodie, and I am a big fan of photography. So it's natural to be into the crossroad of these two areas-food photography. I like light and healthy food, so if I follow a recipe, I would normally find substitute for the high calorie ingredients if possible. I am originally from China, so I cook a lot of Chinese dishes, and Asian cuisine in general.I especially love Thai food. Meanwhile, I constantly make a variety of pasta and typical American homemade dishes like pot roast, chicken & rice etc, since my hubby is American. I started with cooking Asian food separately from western food, and before long I went beyond recipes to , say, pour Asian style sauce over spaghetti. My fusion experiments are always more likely to be a success, since my creative cuisine satisfies both my eastern tooth and my husband's western tooth. Therefore, I want to share all my creativity here, in both food and photography.

Here is the recipes for my two food photos of the food photography contest. I got them both from Leite's Culinaria

Curried deviled eggs

6 large eggs
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons mayonnaise( I used low-fat mayo)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
Salt to taste
Paprika for garnish
Chopped fresh chives for garnish
Freshly cracked black pepper for garnish
1. Put the eggs in a medium pot and add enough water to cover. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and cook for 13 minutes. Drain the eggs and rinse with cold water.
2. Peel the eggs and cut them in half. Gently remove the yolks and put them in a medium bowl.
3. Mash the egg yolks and add the mayonnaise, mustard, and curry powder. Mix well and season with salt.
4. Fill a reusable pastry bag with the yolk mixture and use it to fill the egg white halves. (Alternatively, use a small spoon.)
5. Garnish each egg half with a sprinkling of paprika, chopped chive flowers, and freshly cracked pepper

Chicken coconut noodle soup


3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, chopped (1 tablespoon)
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped (2 cups)
2 teaspoons ground paprika
Three 13 1/2-ounce cans coconut milk (5 cups)
7 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour whisked into 1/2 cup warm water to make a smooth, runny paste
2 pounds fresh or 1 pound dried thin Chinese egg noodles (like chow mein noodles)


6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
4 tablespoons ground dried red chilies, pan-roasted until dark and fragrant
1 large sweet onion, halved, cut into thin crescents, and soaked in water
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 cup cilantro sprigs
3 limes, quartered
Fish sauce

1. In a medium bowl, combine the fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Add the chicken and mix well with your hands (use gloves to prevent your nails from being stained ochre by the turmeric). Set aside.
2. In a medium heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Stir in the onions and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the paprika and mix until the onions are well coated.
3. Tumble in the chicken and raise the heat to medium-high. Stir and cook until the chicken is no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and stock and bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
4. Stir in the garbanzo bean flour paste and return to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce is thick like heavy cream, 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust the consistency with more stock for a thinner gravy or more garbanzo bean flour for a thicker gravy. Taste and add more fish or soy sauce if necessary. Reduce the heat to very low and keep warm until ready to serve.
5. Just before serving the soup, cook the noodles in a large pot of water according to package directions. Tip into a colander over the sink and rinse under cold running water. Drain and place in a bowl. Toss in a little oil to prevent sticking.
6. Divide the noodles among individual soup bowls and ladle about 1 1/2 cups sauce over them. Garnish with eggs, chilies, onions, cilantro, limes, and fish sauce as desired.