vancouver

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

Advertisements

A Recipe: Hedgehog Shortbread Cookies

chocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_sophia_hsin-7

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.

chocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_sophia_hsin-2
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!

chocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_amelia_hedgehog-2

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

chocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_amelia_hedgehog-1

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

pender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-1.jpgpender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-7.jpg

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.

pender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-4.jpgpender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-6.jpg

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.

pender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-5.jpg

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.

pender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-2.jpg

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.

pan_con_tomate_recips-1

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

Vancouver City Guide: 10 places to eat, visit and photograph

whytcliff_park_vancouver_canada-1.jpg
Sunset at Whytecliff Park

I cannot believe that February is already here! It feels like the holidays have barely gone by and now we are hurtling towards a season of warmer weather and exciting projects.

I made a list for a friend planning to visit Vancouver and thought I would share it with all of you. Vancouver is one of my favourites cities with beautiful things I tend to forgot about the longer I am here.

When I think about travel, I think about all the places that fill me with wanderlust. New cities, people, humid air, markets and different cultures that make my heart skip a beat as I am sitting home writing about my city.

So bear with me while I take a step back and revisit Vancouver through the eyes of a tourist. Though I am sure that you will agree that friends, food, nature and art will make any city in the world a good destination to visit.

Eat 

finches_cafe_vancouver.jpg
Hello from the green interiors at Finchesvancouver_finches_cafe_pear_brie_.jpg
Pear and brie prosciutto sandwich at Finches. An all time favourite

1. Finches Tea & Coffee House: No words. If you are ever in Vancouver do take time to try the pear, proscuitto and brie sandwich.

2. The Birds & The Beets: A wonderful green and cosy place with great miso bowls, kombucha and an neat place to escape the rain. The owners Matt, Sean and Francis are also super lovely people.

3. Sushi! Taking this moment to thank the abundance of Japanese food in Vancouver considering I have Japanese five days out of seven. My favourites: Toshi (authentic little nook, no reservations and expect a line), Samurai (best brown rice sushi in the city with great slabs of sashimi) and Miku (nice place to take your parents).

Beaches

4. English Bay: I spent a summer living in an apartment five minutes away from the water. To this day it remains my favourite summer filled with memories of the Honda Celebration of Light, countless evenings watching the sunsets and picnics by the water.

5. Whytecliff Park: This is probably my favourite place to visit and get out of the city. The seals, porpoises and view of Vancouver Island will never fail to take your breath away. Plan your visit around low tide so you get to climb on the giant rock in the park that leads to a most promising view.

white_rock_beach_pier.jpg
Minimalist piers at White Rock Beachwhite_rock_beach_gelato-1.jpg
You cannot visit White Rock without getting gelato or Fish & Chips

6. White Rock Beach: This beach is located further out in Surrey but a must visit if you love minimalist beaches and handmade Italian gelato by the pier.

Arts and shopping

7. Vancouver Art Gallery: A smaller gallery than I am used to but hello it’s art! Tuesday evenings are pay by donation if you are on a travel budget. The gallery cafe offers live music in the summer with a delightful patio and garden.

libtery_bakery_vancouver.jpgBest patio seats at Liberty Bakerylo_and_sons_camera_bag-1.jpgWhite walls of Sun Yet San with dog, many shoots have taken place herebeaucoup_cafe_vancouver.jpg
The irresistible selection of baked goods from Beaucoup Bakery in South Granville

8. Main Street/Mount Pleasant Area: A neat area filled with restaurants, bakeries and cafes(Le Marché St George and Liberty Bakery are my favourites) and boutique shops. Plan to spend at least half a day here. 

9. Gastown: Have to put this one down because it is a tourist must. Great places for coffee like Timbertrain, Revolver. Spend your night at The Diamond for cocktails and Old Faithful Shop for nice things. Skip the steam clock. 

10. Chinatown! I had a season where I was addicted to chicken buns and egg tarts at New Town Bakery, white space at Sun Yet San Garden, pick me ups at Matchstick Coffee and the best ramen with squash and miso broth you can possibly get at Harvest Community.

IMG_0543.JPG
Summer sailboats at Whytecliff Park

So here is to travel. To places where you discover or lose a little more of yourself and to journeys that make you appreciate the comforts of home.

All photos here by me. Photo of me by Isabel

Gratitude

FullSizeRenderSunset at Lions Bay – moments before I jumped off a 50 feet cliff and got covered in barnacles scratches and a heart filled with adrenaline. We stayed out till midnight and watched the water light up with bioluminescent plankton. It was one of those moments where you feel really alive and actually want to tuck away your camera to enjoy the moment.

Tonight as I’m typing out this post I’ve just moved into a new apartment, picked up my visa for India, sent off prints to the print shop and I’m eating fresh mochi from a friend that dropped me off to my new home. It’s beautiful, bright and everything I ever imagined in one of the nicest places in the world.

I can look back on this week and think of all the friends that I have around me, people I got to meet, events I attended and the satisfaction I have everyday from working for something I’m passionate about and believe in.

I’m so excited thinking of the next few months of travel. Places I go and things I see that break my heart a little and make me appreciate how human I am. I can’t wait to see the photos I’m going to take, people that will leave footprints in my life and pieces of history that’s bound to make me small and powerful at the same time.

At the end of the day, I am just thankful—for work, an education, things that kick my bum and motivate to learn and be a better human, opportunities to be more authentic and fearless and days to look forward to. I don’t know where I’ll be without my community. And of course the little things that make the days sweet and beautiful.

Here is to the next season of exploring the unknown and moving onward. 38 days till India!

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.

bakery-sate-food-photography-vancouver-1bakery-sate-food-photography-vancouver-2bakery-sate-food-photography-vancouver-6

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.

bakery-sate-food-photography-vancouver-1bakery-sate-food-photography-vancouver-2

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.

How To Make Bear Toast- A Tutorial

There are times when life as a creative (or life in general) requires trying new things or breaking out of a tedious schedule. Times when you feel like you’re in a slum, and possibly can’t create work anymore.

The secret?
Bear Toast

Bear with me as I go through this list of reasons why:

1. They are irresistibly cute

2. Impress a friend, roommate, parent or neighbour. They are good for picnics too

3. A healthy snack (as long as you have self control and don’t eat spoonfuls of Nutella during the making)

4. Bound to get you out of any creative rut

Enough said.

You will need: how_to_make_bear_toast

slices of toast
banana
peanut butter, Nutella or frosting
blueberries (any type of berries)

how_to_make_bear_toast

Start by slicing the bananas and cover toast with Nutella for blacks bears, peanut butter for brown bears (my fav).

bear_toast
bear_toast_blueberries

Position sliced bananas and blueberries for the eyes and nose. I’ve found that slicing the berry in half helps to keep the nose from rolling off. The blueberries also remind me of beagles in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

bear_toast_photography

Viola! You can experiment with different colours of frosting and berries too. Try white frosting for polar bears.

bear_toast_selfie
bear_toast_good_morning

Snap a photo with your favourite bear and enjoy. Now go make some bear toast.

bear_toast_the_end

The end