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Dumplings and peach cakes

August 8, 2008

Thursday, 8/7/2008

Breakfast: same as always. To be more specific, I eat about 1/2 cup of Fiber One, about 1/4 cup of Kashi puffed wheat, and about 1/2 cup of light vanilla soymilk. The number of Triscuits I eat with my hummus varies, anywhere between two and eight. I should also mention, since I haven’t before, that all this is what I eat AFTER I work out in the morning. Before working out, I drink a cup of coffee (fair trade organic, in fact) with light vanilla soymilk.

I also, each weekday, take with me to work a jug of tea. Someone once brought me from Taiwan the coolest little tea-brewing gadget ever. (They’ve since popped up everywhere, but my authentic, foreign one is definitely the best.) It’s a sturdy plastic bottle, about 20 ounces, from which you unscrew the top to drink. To brew, you turn it over, unscrew the bottom, and put loose leaves in the little removable basket that sits in there, and fill it with hot water. It has some sort of cloth covering, I don’t know what it’s made of, that slips around the bottle and can be tightened at the top. I assume it’s to keep you from burning your hands (the plastic gets very hot). On one side of the sleeve, there is Chinese lettering. On the other side, it says “Piao I Travel Buddy.” It’s neat. So anyway, every weekday I use it to make my favorite blend: a good amount of ti kuan yin oolong, a few pinches of white peony, and one or two jasmine dragon pearls. If you like oolong at all, I HIGHLY recommend you try ti kuan yin. It’s by far the best oolong I’ve ever tried.

I had more leftover spaghetti marinara for lunch (told ya) and an apple in the afternoon. As expected, Nick and I had Chinese for dinner. We went to a place near 39th and State Line called Po’s Dumpling Bar. We’ve been there once before. The first time, I got the tofu hot pot – it was excellent. It had lightly fried tofu triangles soaking up a delicious spicy dark soy-garlic sauce alongside a plethora of vegetables – broccoli, carrots, baby corn, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and more that I can’t recall. It came with brown rice, mmm.

Last night, though, I went for something lighter. I ordered the steamed vegetable dumpling appetizer (I needed to try the restaurant’s namesake dish, after all). It came with six dumplings, and they were BIG. (I’m very sorry for the grainy cell phone pictures, but of course, I had forgotten my camera again.) They were filled with very finely shredded vegetables – I detected carrot, celery, and cabbage (“finely shredded’ is possibly the only way I can stand to ingest cabbage. See sidebar at right for foods I hate). I ate them with a soy-sesame dipping sauce.

Since that made for such a small dinner, I ordered another appetizer alongside. I was originally going to order the red-bean-paste-stuffed sesame balls, but it came with eight of them, and that wasn’t something Nick would have helped me eat. Instead, I went with another dish that caught my eye and my curiosity. It was called “Peach Cakes (filled with red bean paste).” Now, I am NOT the type to order something in a restaurant without knowing exactly what it is and what it contains. I could tell, though, that Mr. Po, who happened to be our server, would have had a difficult time trying to explain anything in English. So I took a walk on the wild side and ordered them blindly.

They were the weirdest looking things I’ve ever seen (almost). They came in a metal steamer basket, and they really looked (not that you can really tell from the picture above – sorry again) like blushing little white peaches. I picked one up. It had the tone and give of a marshmallow, but with a smooth sheen on the outside. I sniffed it. It gave me just the slightest whispering whiff of peach – and not fruity peach, but floral. I bit into one, gleefully marring its plump flesh. As it turns out, it was made of some kind of pillowy sponge cake (which, by the way, did not taste eggy at all…but who ever knows). The decorative leaf tasted like marzipan. Inside, a goldmine of sweet red bean paste sat snuggled into the core.

Altogether? Just plain weird – and tasty. Sweet but not too sweet, soft but not at all gooey, delicate but not insubstantial. They perplexed me – in the best way.

I left Po’s surprisingly full, and was sated for the remainder of the night.

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