taiwan

How to Make Dried Pineapple Flowers

My grandmother • Her pineapple farm • Memories of Taiwan

Dried Pineapple Flowers. A recipe and a story about a favourite person I wanted to write about for a very long time— my grandma — a tea and pineapple farmer in Nantou, Taiwan. The person who instilled in me a love for this marvellous fruit. Golden, ripened under the sun, syrupy sweet they hurt your teeth and so fragrant that drivers put them in their cabs as a natural perfume.

So much of my love for food, being in the kitchen, making things with my hands come from grandma, who wakes up at five am every day to cook for the masses. Tables filled with marinated pork with eggs, her famous fried fish with tomato sauce, sesame oil chicken for winter months, and the best-fried tofu I could eat platefuls of with congee and soy sauce every morning.

Since grandpa passed a few years ago, grandma renounced meat (a tradition in Buddist culture where they believe will help grandpa’s soul go to heaven). Since then, all activity in grandma’s kitchen has stopped. My remaining family on the farm eats out while grandma eats her vegetarian meals in solitude. My heart kind of breaks over this and for my grandmother — who shows so much love through food. I also feel the urge to share more of her recipes and write about my childhood memories and places that will never be the same.

I made two batches of these pineapple flowers and photographed them over the course of a few days. It was difficult to find a recipe that was not too western but one that I could make. I also realized that no recipe or photograph can convey the importance of pineapples in my life, or compare to any of the recipes grandma makes. But one must try.

There are so many recipes I want to collect from grandma — her delicious fried long green beans, squash flowers from her yard and boiled noodles with tea oil (茶油麵線). I wish I could teleport to her farm and take more photos of grandma — slicing pineapples with graceful skills acquired from a lifetime.

So here it is, a simple but tedious recipe dedicated to my pineapple farmer grandma, whose love for her grandchildren travels miles and continents. To the fruit my mother hated as a child because she had to eat way too many of them. And to the fruit I always leave grandma’s house with, wrapped snugly in newspapers to bring back to Taipei or wherever I am headed.

Dried Pineapple Flowers

You will need:

One ripe pineapple
A sharp knife or mandolin
Baking trays and sheets

Instructions:

1. Cut both ends of the pineapple. Stand pineapple on the bottom and cut deliberately around the fruit. Do not be afraid to cut into the flesh and get rid of the eyes (鳳梨眼 in Mandarin). The pineapple will taste less tart.

2. Cut pineapple into even slices as thin as possible (thin enough that you can see the blade through the slice). I used a knife but a mandolin should work too. Dry on paper towels and lay flat without overlapping on a baking sheet.

3. Bake at 220F for an hour. After 30 minutes, flip pineapples flowers. Bake and repeat until pineapples are dried, golden with a texture that represents dried mangos.

4. Place pineapple flowers in muffin tins to attain a curvy shape. Store in an airtight container with lotsa room as the flowers will stick to each other. I kept mine stored separately in silicon muffin cups.

* These flowers are great as a topping for smoothies, yogurt, cakes or eat as a snack. They also make very impressive gifts to your co-workers or friends.

* Check on your pineapple flowers when they are almost done as they go from dried to burnt in a very short time. If your pineapple flowers are still wet to the touch, turn the heat off and leave them in the oven overnight!

A photo of me and grandma. Photographed on her farm in 2017.
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Chive Blossom Vinegar Recipe

I have an appetite for chives. Chives in boiled dumplings, chives in pot stickers; chives chopped, stir-fried and hidden into chive pockets; chives wrapped into steamed buns and strung onto sticks with enoki or chicken skewers from vendors on the streets in Asia; chives fried with egg, dried shrimp, thin slivers of pork and rice noodles grandma would make by the mountain-full. I eat chives for the taste just as much as the love of the memories I have of eating them.

There is something incredibly beautiful about chives blossoms, the tiny bursts of purple on long green stems, the pungent smell and tiny seeds that fall from their pods. I also cherish the fact that I get to harvest a handful of these beauties every year from my dad’s yard — so pretty that I put them in vases for a few days before making a recipe out of them. 

I chuckle to think of the traits I bring from Asian culture into photography —choosing to photograph subjects that are at once tasty, photogenic, accessible and meaningful. It’s almost like someone said, “I created these chive blossoms, make good use of them!” An opportunity one must not pass.

So here is a recipe for chive blossom vinegar. A vinegar that will taste slightly like chives and turn the liquid into a deceivingly shade of rosé. Great for pickling daikon or adding flavour to a salad.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

You will need:

• A handful of chive blossoms (use blooms that bloomed and have yet gone to seed)
• Vinegar (I used rice vinegar for this one)

Instructions:

1. Behead chive blossoms, wash thoroughly with water and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Transfer chive blossoms into a clean jar. Mash slightly with a spoon to release flavour. Top the blossoms with a sprig of chive stem if you like, chopped.

3. Fill to the brim with vinegar.

4. Let sit in a cool dark place for two weeks. Strain the liquid and keep in a sterilized jar for up to 6 months.

* Rice vinegar can be substituted with apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar.

* For a quick pickle, heat the vinegar until it comes to a simmer (do not boil, it will drain the colour from the blossoms), repeat with steps 3 and 4 above. Vinegar will be ready in 3 days.

More chive blossom vinegar recipes here: 

http://www.hungryghostfoodandtravel.com/blog/chive-blossom-vinegar
https://www.thespruceeats.com/chive-blossom-vinegar-1327760
https://foodinjars.com/recipe/chive-blossom-vinegar/

Say Hello to A Hog Named Bob

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Hello!

A little update from Taiwan. Today was a very special day. I traveled out of Taipei into Keelung and came home with a new friend — Bob the Hedgehog!

I realized there will never a time when I feel ready enough for many things. Things like new cities, new beginnings or new pets. But the beauty of life is to make up your mind and move forward with complete courage while expecting the very best.

Taipei will be the eighth city I call home in my many years of life. I have never known where I am heading next and I figured that’s the way it will always be. Moving around so much also made me realize the importance of being present, of making home wherever I am, and to accept every challenge that comes up with a fully committed heart. Sometimes those decisions involve hedgehogs.

So now, I am excited to call this city home and look forward to what I can create here. I know there will always be limits that come with each place like geographic location, industry, and culture. But right now, I look forward to growing lots in this season — in boldness, in creativity, in kindness, and to believe that there is nowhere in the universe to be now but here.

With that being said, here are photos documenting this special day with Bob.

keelung_harbour_taiwan_基隆港_sophia_hsin-5A rainy day at Keelung Harbour. This was the city where I lived and attended music school. The concrete building on the right was where I held my elementary graduation concert.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-4.jpg
Meeting Bob — the lightest colored hog among his siblings. Basically love at first sight.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-2.jpgTiny Bob. Born December 12, 2017. Two days after Amelia left for heaven and a week away from my birthday. His hedgehog coloring is classified as “milk tea” or “white chocolate”. Both delicious.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-3.jpgTo new amigos!

Postcards from Taipei + A Playlist for Asia

taipei_danshui_fishermans_wharf_sophia_hsin-5.jpgSunset at Fisherman’s Wharf in Tamshui, Taipei

It is so weird being back in Canada after a month in Asia.

While I feel that my soul will forever be stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between North America and Asia, I am glad for photos and stories to linger over these trips and memories.

When I think of Taipei, I think of the scorching tropics, the smell of pineapples, scooter exhaust and a city vibrant with the best selection of night markets, alleyways and temples that take you back in time.

Here you will find the perfect mix of western influence and Chinese tradition with traces of Japan. But the best thing about Taipei is always the hospitality of people who are ready to make a tourist feel like local.

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Huashan 1914 Creative Park: One of my favourite places with ongoing exhibitions of Asian designers and creatives, music festivals and coffee shops to sit in and watch Taipei go by.

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Taipei Main Station. Taken in 2014

So if you ever find yourself in Taipei, be prepared to let go of your western politeness, go all out with the best food, island scooter adventures and a warm experience of Asia you will not too soon forget.

A playlist for your trip: 

1. Crowd Lu – 100 Ways of Living (盧廣仲 – 100種生活)
If you are on the hunt for Taiwanese musicians this guy is such a good place to start. I love his humble lyrics like buying breakfast with homies (soy milk and salty donuts all day every day), wise words from his grandmother to the pursuit of his musical journey. He also works often with my favourite photographer Hideaki Hamada.

2. Nujabes – Aruarian Dance
Trust me. So. good.

3. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
I found out about Mr. Sakamoto during my college years and my ears have been in love since. A pianist and slightly moodier composer (much like Studio Ghibli for adults), you will find yourself moved with his soft and deep pieces like Energy Flow and Rain.

4. Deserts Chang – Bao Bei (張懸 – 寶貝)
This lady is an inspo with her soft vocals, rich cadenzas and creating music for deeply sentimental people.

5. Shanghai Restoration Project – Jade Buddha Temple w/ Di Johnston
I found out about Dave Liang during my years living in China. It has been a treat following this Asian American producer turn Chinese folk songs into modern tunes. Shanghai Restoration Project brings me back to Shanghainese streets, steamed dumplings and music theatres with women clad in silk gowns and jade bracelets.

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Taipei has a pace that is surprisingly laid back for a popular Asian city. I love watching the locals stop for photos of flowers, trees, boats and anything that catches their fancy.
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Exploring old alley ways around Gongguan. Many of these apartments used to be air raid hidings from the Taiwan/Japan War in the 1900s.
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Monster shaved ice at Roji, Taipei – Are they not cute? I died a sweet death

If there was a time I grew up not knowing whether I was Taiwanese or Canadian, I am grateful for this city where I learn about my heritage every time I visit. Taipei will forever be my home away from home and hold a special place in my heart.

I leave you with a favourite quote from Ansel Adams:

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

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Till next time.

Postcards from Laomei Green Reef, Taiwan

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Hello from Lao Mei, Taiwan.

It’s so nice to be back in Taiwan revisiting old nooks and discovering new places on this island that feels like home every time I am back. I think the beauty of going away is being able to come back and look at things with a new perspective and fresh lens. There are many memories I have from Asia and they grows richer with each trip.

I took the liberty of the Labour Day holiday and drove out to the North coast with friends. Taiwan is small yet I never cease to be amazed by the diverse landscapes and lush beauty the island seems to hold.

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Laomei Green Reef: A seaweed carpet formed by a type of algae that grows on the reef from April to May before the summer heat hits the coast. I have never seen such curious plants and might have taken a photo too many. taiwan_lao_mei_green_stones-12engagement_photography_taiwan_taipei
Chasing the light with Albert and Liz

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My squinty friend
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I have a few more days left here and it is always a fun battle between savouring moments like a local or taking photos like an unapologetic tourist. I leave feeling full from the warmth of the culture here and am excited to head back to Canada with a deeper understanding of Asia.

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Till next time.