Mount Baker – Easton Glacier

 Posted by on March 31, 2012 at 9:17 am  Outdoors, Photos  No Responses »
Mar 312012
 

Looking up the Easton Glacier on the south side of Mount Baker to the summit.  Notice the three people in the lower right corner giving scale.

Sun setting behind the Black Buttes adjoining Mount Baker.

A view of contrasts, textures, and planes of color from high on the Easton glacier.

A backcountry camp at 7000 feet on the Easton Glacier with the Twin Sisters in the background to the left viewed from the East.

Share

Dim Sum Guide: Chinese Broccoli

 Posted by on March 31, 2012 at 7:34 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Mar 312012
 
Chinese broccoli

Chinese broccoli

Chinese broccoli (gai lan) is one of my favorite vegetable dim sum dishes. This dark green leafy vegetable is typically steamed or poached until the thick stems are slightly crunchy on the outside but tender inside. The oyster sauce that is drizzled over it contrasts well with the slightly bitter taste of the vegetable. Chinese broccoli, a member of the mustard family, has a stronger flavor than its Western broccoli counterpart.

This dish is usually considered an “extra large” dish so it will be more expensive than others. But it tastes great, is good for you, and is well worth the money.

Share

Upgrade Project at Snoqualmie Falls

 Posted by on March 30, 2012 at 6:02 am  Family, Outdoors  2 Responses »
Mar 302012
 
Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls

When out-of-town guests visit and want to see something close by that represents Washington, I immediately think of Snoqualmie Falls, a cascade flowing some 268 feet over sheer granite cliffs. It’s a short 25 miles from Seattle, but the Falls and surrounding towns will make you believe otherwise as their charm takes you back in time.

Be warned. Bring a rain jacket if you don’t want to get wet. Even on mildly windy days, the mist from the Falls will blow onto the observation areas.

Upgrade project at Snoqualmie Falls

Construction equipment at Snoqualmie Falls

There are two hydroelectric power plants at the Falls operated by Puget Sound Energy. The two powerhouses were built in 1898 and 1910, respectively. The power company is in the middle of a multi-year upgrade project to update the power plant and enhance the trails, picnic areas, and visitors’ areas. Construction equipment can be seen at the head of the Falls.

The hiking trail to the bottom of the Falls is closed until March 2013 due to the upgrade project. When it re-opens, I highly recommend the family friendly hike down which descends about 300 feet. Seeing the foot of the magnificent Falls gives you an appreciation of the power of falling water.

On the way out, train buffs may also want to catch the Northwest Railroad Museum nearby.

 

Share

Dim Sum Guide: Baked Pineapple Buns

 Posted by on March 29, 2012 at 6:04 am  Food & Cooking  2 Responses »
Mar 292012
 
Baked pineapple buns
Baked pineapple buns

Baked pineapple buns

For good reason, pineapple buns (bo lo bao) are a very popular dessert. These buns get their name from the fact that the crunchy, sweet top crust closely resembles a crisscross pineapple pattern. Beneath the cookie-like top crust, the soft wheat bun holds a sweet, thick custard filling.

Sweet custard filling in a pineapple bun

Sweet custard filling in a pineapple bun

Pineapple buns are a big hit with kids (and almost everyone else I know). I remember how my youngest daughter in her preschool days would first lick and nibble the cookie crust from the very top of the bun. Once she was temporarily satiated with the cookie crust layer, she would proceed to “drill down” directly to the sweet creamy custard filling, lapping it up as she went along. The sides of the bun, mostly bread, would be the last to be devoured.

Pineapple buns are often found in Chinese bakeries as well as dim sum restaurants.  Some bakeries offer as good, if not better, buns than restaurants.

Share

Dim Sum Guide: Baked Barbecue Pork Buns

 Posted by on March 27, 2012 at 6:35 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Mar 272012
 
Baked barbecue pork buns
Baked barbecue pork buns

Baked barbecue pork buns

Baked barbecue pork buns (guk char siu bao) are the oven baked version of the very popular steamed barbecue pork buns. The baked buns have the same barbecue pork filling but the golden brown bun is quite different. The buns are more similar to baked bread and are top coated with honey or sugar mixture. In addition, baked barbecue pork buns are quite a bit larger than their steamed cousins so you get more for your money. These buns are commonly available in Chinese bakeries as well as dim sum restaurants.

Share

Dim Sum Guide: Shrimp Rice Noodle

 Posted by on March 26, 2012 at 6:06 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Mar 262012
 
Shrimp Noodle
Shrimp rice noodle rolls

Shrimp rice noodle rolls

Love shrimp? How about rice noodles? Well, you will absolutely enjoy the classic dim sum dish shrimp rice noodle (har cheung fun). If I had to pick one dim sum dish as the standard by which to compare dim sum restaurants, this would be it! If a restaurant can prepare shrimp noodles just right, they can pretty much slam dunk all the other dim sum dishes.This is one of my all time favorites and can even win over finicky kid palates.

This is a relative simple dish–steamed shrimp wrapped in wide rice noodles drenched with sweetened soy sauce–but very difficult to get the texture and the sweetness of the sauce exactly right. The shrimp should be large and firm to the bite and should not have any aftertaste.

Shrimp rice noodle with sweetened soy sauce

Shrimp rice noodle with sweetened soy sauce

Make sure the dish is not sitting in the dim sum cart already smothered in sauce. This would make the noodle a little too mushy. The sauce should be applied right when you order it. Once in a while, I’ll find that the shrimp has a slightly off-taste suggesting they used less than fresh shrimp.

Shrimp noodle, like any dish made with rice noodles, is not suitable for refrigeration as the noodles lose their soft succulent texture very quickly. Devour them as soon as they are served!

Share
Mar 252012
 
Steamed lettuce with oyster sauce

Steamed lettuce with oyster sauce

Steamed lettuce with oyster sauce (   ) is a deceptively simple dish with complex flavors. It is one of the few vegetarian dim sum dishes around and is quite delicious and healthy for you. In most dim sum restaurants, steamed lettuce will not be found in the rolling carts, you’ll need to special order it from the kitchen.

This dish is simply steamed iceberg lettuce that is subsequently coated with oil and oyster sauce. Oyster sauce, a staple of Cantonese cooking, is thick brown sauce made from oyster extracts, salt, sugar, soy sauce, and other  seasonings. As a general rule, Chinese people do not eat raw vegetables including lettuce.

I don’t usually consider iceberg lettuce to have much flavor in its raw state, but steaming lettuce seems to bring out its full potential. The somewhat crunchy and chewy texture of steamed lettuce and the fusion of oil and oyster sauce really does wonders on the palate! You may never go back to raw iceberg lettuce again after eating this dish.

Share

Dim Sum Guide: Steamed Meatballs

 Posted by on March 24, 2012 at 6:53 am  Food & Cooking  1 Response »
Mar 242012
 
P1000895
Steamed Chinese meatballs

Steamed Chinese meatballs

A classic dim sum, steamed Chinese beef meatball (ngau yuk),  is a treat for carnivores. The meatball is made of ground beef (some restaurants may add pork) and sits on top of a layer of bean curd skin. The garnish on top is usually green scallions, peas, or watercress. The server will ask if you want your meatballs cut in half or served with a dash of Worcestershire sauce when she hands them to you. I’ve often wondered how this non-Chinese sauce ever got introduced to dim sum.

Steamed Chinese meatballs taste quite different from the meatballs you may make with spaghetti. Steamed meatballs are firmer and smoother in texture and are lighter. These meatballs are so delicious that my son ate five meatballs (make sure you cut them into tiny pieces first) in one sitting when he was a finicky toddler!

 

Share
Mar 232012
 
Steamed spareribs with black beans
Steamed spareribs with black beans

Steamed spare ribs with black beans

Steamed spare ribs (pai gwut) is a major treat for meatlovers. The pork ribs are cut cross-wise into small pieces and steamed with fermented black beans and a touch of sesame oil. Sometimes, the dish will be garnished with hot peppers but any spiciness is subtle. The juice in this dish, unfortunately high in salt and fat, is great on rice. I’ve seen some mediocre restaurants use larger pieces of spare rib for this dish.  The small ribs and tips are much better.

Steamed spareribs have bones!

Steamed spare ribs have bones!

Warning: It takes some effort and attention to eat this dish if you don’t want to chip your tooth. After a few pieces of practice, however, you should be able to carefully nibble around the bones. It’s acceptable to spit out your bones. In some places in China, diners will spit them out on the floor but I don’t recommend you do this if you want to be welcomed back by the restaurant. Steamed spare ribs have quickly become a dim sum favorite of my kids.

Share

Dim Sum Guide: Fried Taro Dumplings

 Posted by on March 22, 2012 at 6:58 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Mar 222012
 
Fried taro dumplings
Fried taro dumplings

Fried taro dumplings

Everyone should experience the contrasting textures of fried taro dumplings (wu gok), one of my favorite dishes. The shell of this dumpling is made from soft taro root paste and the filling is minced pork. Upon deep-frying, the crispy shell reminds me of the spiky hair of a rabid sports fan. The sensation of the fluffy light shell is quickly followed by the steamy, creamy flavor of the taro and, finally, the slightly salty pork filling. The combination of flavors and textures is unique.

Share