food

A Vancouver Salad | with roasted chickpeas, quinoa and blood orange

When I think about food I love to eat off the top of my head, things pop up like: tofu pudding loaded with soft boiled peanuts, taro and grass jelly, grandma’s fried long green beans, freshly shelled sweet peas from markets in the summer, roasted vegetables, ice cream, and bean chips from Costco.

As of July this year, it will be my 6th year anniversary living in Canada since I was here as a child. Come to think of it, my diet in Vancouver usually consists of Japanese, Vietnamese, and middle eastern food. With the occasional burger with friends, and potlucks that feature food from, well, everywhere. I struggle to think of anything in my diet that falls under the category of Canadian food. 

Perhaps the biggest change in my eating choices has been reaching a lot more for organic, green and fresh food. I don’t think I’ve appreciated how accessible produce is in Vancouver and how fresh they are. A vivid memory I have from my first few months in Canada was emptying my uncle’s fridge of all their blueberries and greek yogurt. A habit I have kept till this day. For my dad, it was consuming almost unhealthy amounts of salmon, kale and quinoa. All of which was very rare to come by in Asia.

Where I grew up in Taipei, great salads almost nonexistent. Most salads you order at restaurants consist of sad pieces of wilted lettuce, canned corn, slivers of carrots, and tiny pieces of random vegetables. Most of the time drenched in sweetened yogurt and once to my horror — topped with fruit loops.

To celebrate being Canadian, I’ve put together a salad featuring all of my favourite things. With the addition of blood oranges because they are photogenic. If you had passed me a bowl of this salad to my 10-year-old self. I would probably have rolled my eyes at you and walked out to the street to buy noodle soup (米粉湯) and boiled tofu(油豆腐). The fact that I can love eating this now means that I am most definitely, finally, and proudly — Canadian.


A Vancouver Salad — with roasted chickpeas, quinoa, and blood orange

Salad body
1 can cooked chickpeas
1 tsp seasoning of choice ( I love chopped garlic, smoked paprika, chili and sesame seeds)
3 blood oranges
1/2 cup of quinoa
1 bag of organic greens
A handful of walnuts, toasted

Dressing:
1 whole lemon
Olive oil
Salt + Pepper
Few cloves of garlic

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cook Quinoa: Add 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup water in a medium pan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  3. Rinse chickpeas. Dry them off with a paper towel. Toss chickpeas with 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp seasoning (I used chili, turmeric, paprika and sesame seeds for this batch). Spread on a pan and bake for 20 mins or until browned and crispy. Allow chickpeas to cool before tossing into salad.
  4. Slice blood oranges. Cut two ends of orange and lay on the cut side (refer to image above). Hold and slice the peel around the orange. Do not be afraid to cut into the flesh. Cut peeled oranges into slices. It will take a few tries.
  5. Toss greens, quinoa, roasted chickpeas, dressing into a bowl. Top with blood orange slices and roasted walnuts. If you are taking the salad to a party, reserve roasted walnuts and chickpeas in a bag until ready to be served. They are better crispy.

*Quinoa cooking tips adapted from The Kitchn

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A Recipe: Hedgehog Shortbread Cookies

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I have found in life that art happens during unexpected moments. For example, it happens through an idea you get on your morning walk. It happens during a conversation over Chinese noodles or on a day when your shoot gets canceled on account of rain. Art happens in those times when you find yourself stuck indoors, with no photos to edit and your to-do list (almost) done aside from figuring out your taxes.

That’s when you know you need to bake cookies. Because art is like a cookie monster. When you hear the cookie monster rumbling, you gotta feed it. Preferably hedgehog cookies.

So here they are. Brown, crunchy,  irresistible little devils covered with toasted pecans and chocolate. 100% hard work and 100% worth it.

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Sightless hedgehogschocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_sophia_hsin-101.jpg
Not anymore

You will need:

• 1 cup non-salted butter
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• dark chocolate chips
• finely chopped toasted pecans

Directions:

1. Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well. Add in dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix well.

2. Form cookies. Use an ice cream scoop if you’d like. Roll into ball form, forming one pointed end. Space out the cookies as they expand! Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or when they are light brown on the bottom. Cool on rack.

3. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave (use 30-second intervals). Dip or cover hedgehogs with chocolate. Use a spoon to cover with crushed nuts. Scoop remaining chocolate into bag and pipe two eyes and one nose.

4. Enjoy!

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* Makes around two dozen hedgehogs
* For nut-free version substitute nuts with graham crackers

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Passing these out at my Amelia Hedgehog Book Signing. If you are in Vancouver July 21st do show up for one and come say hello!

Till next time.

Pender Grocery: An Interview + Pan Con Tomate Recipe

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With it’s colourful interiors and sun-lit space—it is hard to miss this charming grocery store on Pender street. The smell of fresh baked goods beckons you in to admire the shelves and tables that are wonderfully stocked with Spanish goods, everyday necessities and organic produce.

Today, I sit down with Shawn, one of the three founders of Pender Grocery. Shawn tells stories of food and travel in the Basque region, how he discovered his passion for food, and their vision to cultivate slow living in a busy city. For a moment, my mind is teleported to apple fields, farmer markets, old towns and a relaxed and pleasant ambience that the store seems to emit.

Tell me how you started from importing cider to opening a grocery store in downtown Vancouver.
A few years ago, my wife and I travelled to Spain to visit our friend Michael, who was the chef of a restaurant in San Sebastian, a city known for Michelin restaurants. Michael introduced us to Basque cuisine—we experienced the pintxo culture, and ate our way through restaurants, each more interesting than the last. The experience shook me and there I discovered that I had a deep passion for food. It was a lightbulb moment. After Michael moved back to Vancouver, the three of us started importing wine and cider from the region and it led to importing goods, and the opening of this store.

Opening a store was actually a plan for us in the next three-five years. Luckily, we came across this space at the perfect time, and the landlord, who was hugely supportive of our idea, made us an offer we couldn’t resist.

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The sign on the wall and decorations in the store caught my attention the moment I walked in, how did the look and design for the store come to be?
We are actually sitting in a space that used to be parking lot 100 years ago. The sign on the wall is something really special—we uncovered it when we were tearing down the walls to reconstruct the space. It is a ghost sign from 1906 that was covered up in 1908. We decided to keep it to lead the look of the space. After that, everything seemed to fall into place. Many of the vintage pieces here are collected from friends and family as well as passed down from Kelly’s late grandmother.

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This is a very interesting location to open a grocery store, what is it that you hope to bring to the community here?
Living in the city, we are disconnected from farmlands and we don’t get to see how food is grown and made. We felt that the area was lacking a grocery store, and the idea was to create a Bodega—a grocery store for the neighbourhood.

Our customers consists of working professionals, and residents form the local community. We want to cater to everyone but also want people to come in not knowing what to expect. We want to invite shoppers to take their time to browse, and to be inspired to cook.

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Using ingredients from your shop, what is a simple and delicious recipe that anyone can make?
I love a good Pan Con Tomate—a humble recipe with few ingredients. Slice a fresh tomato, place on traditional crusty bread, drizzle with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt. A simple snack can be a good can of conservas from the store—sardines, squid or mussels marinated in Galician sauce. Simply open a can, dip with bread, and eat with gusto with a glass of wine. It is a tasty high end treat.

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Pan Con Tomate Directions

In a small bowl combine sliced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

Whisk until combined

Toast the bread slices individually until golden warm and crispy

Set on plate and sprinkle with sea salt

Top with fresh basil

Serve

How to Make Totoro Rice Cakes — A Tutorial

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Before I go off into the fascinating world of Totoro Rice Cake’s, there are lyrics from The Cinematic Orchestra – To Build a Home I must share.

It goes:

Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the colour of green
Ground had arose and passed it’s knees
By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top

I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
I held on as tightly as you held onto me

Combining these lyrics along with my favourite Hayao Miyaziki film hero—Totoro—I can just about envision the furry beast standing beside his acorn seeds, climbing on tree tops, and roaring his head off in ferocious grace for all that have ears to hear.

It is incredible to think that someone thought of stringing these words together into a song that is a perfect soundtrack for making Totoro rice cakes.

I think these things lead to a certain kind of excitement in being a creative. Knowing that you possess a skill or ability to create something that resonates with the rest of the world. For this season, that being me, in my studio where I dream of ideas and set about creating them.

To know that I have at the tip of my fingertips the ability to command to life an army of Totoro’s is quite empowering. While this post is to share my love for rice cakes, I hope that we all find and pursue diligently that medium where we bring much joy to ourselves and to the world.

Without further ado, here are steps to making your own Totoro rice cake, for you and for me.

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You will need:
Ground sesame powder
Cooked sushi rice
Piece of sliced cheese
Sheets of nori
Clean boba straw
Toothpicks
Leaves to decorate

totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-13.jpg1. Mix sesame powder into rice for desired shade of grey. Puncture cheese with boba straw for Totoro eyes.totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-14.jpg2. Use plastic wrap to mold grey and white rice into appropriate size for torso, abdomen and ears.Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_Sophia_Hsin-4.jpg3. Trim circles of nori for eyes, nose, and half moons for belly. Insert ears into Totoro torso and secure with toothpicks.Soot_Sprites_Totoro_Rice_Cake_Sophia_Hsin-12.jpg4. For Susuwatari (Soot Sprites) — roll rice ball onto nori sheet, soften edges of nori with water to shape. Decorate with eyes.
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5. There you have it, Totoro and soot sprite rice cakes. Better when they match your socks.
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Photograph them on black.yay-5.jpgGift them to a friend.Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_amelia_hedgehog-5.jpgIntroduce them to your hedgehog.

Do enjoy.

The end.

Find tutorials to Alpaca Rice Cakes here & Panda Rice Cakes here.

A Recipe: Blueberry Arugula Salad

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The wonderful thing about growing up is having a lot of your childhood wishes come true, like photographing llamas or picking fresh berries on a blueberry farm.

I took the liberty of the weekend and drove out to the unknown territory of Maple Ridge, known for it’s fruit, vegetable farms, and llamas.

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I have always wanted to photograph a llama. The small black one is only two days old.

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I’ve never seen a blueberry bush growing up in Asia and I’m proud to admit that I must have ingested a couple pounds of blueberries that day. It’s safe to say that you can never get enough of the good things and berries are one of them.

There is no better way to end a blueberry picking day than visiting llamas on a farm. The owners were so kind to show us around and I got to pet a few that were being trained. It was an extraordinary experience.

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Llama with a very attractive backside

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Llamas are like large fluffy dogs with very long necks

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Mama llama with baby llama. She was so protective I couldn’t get too close but this is one of my favourites.

Without further ado, here is the salad recipe with photos. Tastier when you pick the blueberries yourself.

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Blueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing:

*Serves 4
SALAD:
5 ounces baby arugula
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup roasted almonds

1/2 cup crumbled feta

LEMON HONEY DRESSING:

3 tablespoons lemon juice (half a lemon)
squeeze of honey
4 tablespoons olive oil
sprinkle of salt & pepper
 
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You know you’re cool when you mix your salad in a beer bucket.

Directions:

  1. Whisk together dressing ingredients.
  2. Combine the arugula, blueberries and dressing  in a large bowl.
  3. When ready to serve, sprinkle almonds and feta on top

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*Serve with chilled sweet tea

I will leave you with my new favourite quote from Edward Abbey:

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

Till next time.

We built a Newspaper Wall and made Strawberry Galette

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The thanksgiving season is a perfect excuse for me to keep the oven on 24/7 and bake anything that comes to mind.

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Pre baked beauties

We made Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce from Epicurious with a little adaption to the sauce (we used fresh ricotta + whipped cream + dill). You can find a recipe for the Strawberry Basil Balsamic Galette here.

I found the newspaper wall idea from the book Design in Bloom and knew I had to make it. It was fun going around town asking for newspapers and I am always pleasantly surprised how people are willing to help out on my crazy art projects.

Here are photos from our wall.

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It acts as a great photo booth too ✌️

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Plating by Hartman

Collaborations are so fun. You get to work with talented friends that know how to make things look+taste good and you get to eat it too.

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Everything was delicious.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Croissants, Photos and Farewell to Summer

Here are photos from a recent shoot with Bakery Sate– a little French bakery and cafe in the Vancouver.

They have the most heavenly selection of croissants. Butter, chocolate, almond, double baked almond, matcha, cheese..everything you can think of that goes with a croissant.

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I love going through the process of planning every shoot – set up, tear down, working for the right lighting and composition. It’s a thrill being able to come up with ideas and finding a way to make them come alive.

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It’s also immensely satisfying getting to eat your work after.

Can you believe that summer is already over?

Looking forward to the change in season, not too stoked about the Vancouver rain but am excited to work with the different array of moods and colours.

Hope everyone’s had a great summer.