Thursday, October 18, 2007

on birthdays, beaches and burmese

I apologize for my irregular blogging lately. It's a combination of regular everyday busyness and a bit of a light existential crisis. I'm not sure exactly what my blog is supposed to be doing! I veer between the politics and the aesthetics of food- sometimes I want to get on my soapbox and go on and on about various idiocies and injustices in the world, and sometimes I just want to admire delicious, healthy food. So every time I start to think up a post, I undermine myself by fearing it will be too repetitive, irrelevant, preachy, or boring.

BUT. I don't want to stop blogging, so I hope you'll all bear with me as I work out the kinks. Whatever the purpose of my blog, one thing I most certainly don't want to give up is getting to be in touch with so many fascinating and talented fellow bloggers all around the world! I'm sure all of you who blog also go through extremely productive periods as well as periods when you scratch your heads and thing, "what am I doing? and why?"

This post is way too long in the making though, so I'll get right on to it. My mom's birthday was September 30th, so Daiku and I headed down to the Northern Virginia/Metro D.C. region that weekend. Aside from the fun of getting to see family, the weekend was also filled with wonderful food.

First up: Burmese food. I had read about Myanmar Restaurant on The Veg Blog and could not wait to try this cuisine for the first time. My mom is always game for trying new foods, so she, Daiku, and I headed here for lunch. And it was spectacular! I have to admit, being ignorant about Burmese food, I expected it to have deep similarities with Thai or Vietnamese food, but it definitely had unique flavors and textures all its own.

Here's a green tea leaf salad. Cabbage, tomatoes, sesame seeds, peanuts, and crispy garlic in a tangy green tea dressing. The flavor is very hard to describe- it hits you first as almost like pesto, but then a deep, woodsy flavor lingers. The flavors played nicely off of one another, and each bite delivered something crisp, something crunchy, something chewy, and something nutty all at the same time.

I decided to go for a jackfruit curry. I'd never tried jackfruit before, and I thought it was good! I'm glad I didn't go for something familiar as I so often do. The jack fruit reminded me of artichokes in flavor. The curry was unusual if you're used to any other type (Indian, Thai, etc.)- it was a tomato-based broth, with a nice acidic edge.

Jackfruit is made of all kinds of awesome, as you can see by this close-up photo.

Here is a plate of rice and curry, topped with some intensely hot chili flakes. The thing about Burmese cuisine that stood out the most for me was the sour flavor. This comes from something called "sour leaf" or "sour vegetable," which is unique to Myanmar, as far as I could tell. It gave the food an unforgettable flavor, and made my mom a fan, since she dislikes foods with sweet flavors but adores anything sour. So do I, for that matter.

Here was dessert, shweji, a mildly sweet wheat cake with raisins and poppy seeds, with almost a baked cream of wheat taste. It was a very mellow ending to a delicious lunch.

Check it out- white poppy seeds! I've never seen that before!

Of course, the entire time we were eating lunch, we were aware of the strife going on that very moment in Burma itself. It's times like these when I don't have a ready answer to what exactly the relationship between food and revolution can look like. While we enjoy the delicious food of a country, half a world away, peaceful demonstrators in that very country are being killed. Where's the connection? What is our role?

* * *

The next day, my grandmother and aunt and uncles were coming over for brunch, and everyone agreed to have me make a huge vegan brunch! (New vegans, take heart: this would not have happened a few years ago!)

I made two kinds of tofu scramble. The one you see above was my normal mix of veggies: mushrooms, red peppers, onions, and garlic, garnished with cilantro and scallions.

The second one was a vaguely "Iranian-style" version. In Iran, what most people imagine when they speak of "omelette" is a mixture of tomatoes and eggs, often with plenty of garlic and pepper. I found that tofu mimics the texture of eggs in this dish pretty well, so I kept the second scramble pretty simple- just tomatoes, garlic, chili pepper, and tofu.

We also had oven fries and vegan sausage. I thought I had made too much food, but everyone ate the stuff up. I was especially happy that the food impressed my grandma, since she is the origin of many of my food memories, and her seal of approval meant a great deal to me. She told me that she would try experimenting with tofu herself soon- squeee!

I also baked my mom's birthday cake, by doubling a cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. (Thanks to the PPK forum for the tips!) My mom wanted something citrus-y, so I picked the coconut-lime cupcakes with lime buttercream dressing. Check out my awesome (NOT) decorating job! Do I know how to dot an "i" or what?

The blowing out candles shot.

The close-up shot with coconut flakes.

The inside shot.

We finished up the weekend with a trip to Atlantic City.

Here I am on the beach, saying goodbye to summer.

Here's a sunset on the boardwalk.

The best food we found in Atlantic City? In one shop, fresh-baked pretzels sold 3 for $1, and came with an awesome mustard selection. In another, we found veggie philly cheesesteaks! (No photos of either, unfortunately)

One last funny picture:

Daiku and I experienced some hometown pride upon seeing a local upstate New York wine in a Virginia supermarket: Bully Hill. Not only is it a local and very cool company, not only do they make delicious wines with cute goats on the labels, but I recently found out that all their wines are indeed vegan. Double yes! And how funny is the wine next to it- Beauzeaux? The 12 year-old in me loves that name!

This weekend, Daiku and I are headed to Boston for the Vegetarian Food Festival. I am super excited to meet some fellow vegans and bloggers, and will be sure to report back with plenty of photos and stories. If you're going to be there and see us, come up and say hi! In the meantime, here is one of my Boston VegFest posts from last year.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Restaurant Information:

Myanmar Restaurant
7810-C Lee Highway
Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 389-0013



Asana Bear said...

Ah, its hard sometimes to figure out what to write. My blog started out on yoga, veered to zen, plus a little politics. Now its vegan plus whatever I want. I decided to stop worrying about it and just write - as long as its not boring to me, someone will find it interesting! Great blog!

Celine said...

no reason to worry about what category your blog will be placed under depending on what you write, Bazu: it's always high quality reading, no matter if it's about food or other things.

Unilove said...

agreed. it's all good. your blog, your heart, your choices. you write for yourself first, others second. we choose to read or not read. gotta love freedom to choose and act.

do what you want, not what you must


p.s. love the photographs...your talent is just amazing!

Mihl said...

I love to read your blog. Every single entry is interesting, important, relevant, funny and full of great thoughts. I never found a single sentence boring or preachy. I like it exactly for the way it is or better you for the way you are. If you want to change anything though I am sure that the way the blog turns out to be will be great too. Thank you for introducing us to Burmese food, I've never eaten anything Burmese and it was great to read about it.

Jackie said...

I love whatever you write on your blog. I tend to also want to soap box here and there but with my blog format it is impossible to do so thank goodness as I might upset a few people LOL

Happy birthday to you Mum. Her birthday cake was wonderful.

I haven't had Burma style food since my last trip to London. Very tasty.

SusanV said...

As someone recently told me, it's your blog and you can write whatever you want. I personally love your blog because I never know from day to day what I will find. You keep it interesting and keep it real. It reflects your life and your passions, and that's what the best blogs do.

I think you're right that all bloggers go through times when we wonder if we're on the right track and if we want to keep going in the same direction. Sometimes I feel boxed-in by my narrowly focused blog but other times I feel glad to be forced to focus so narrowly. And sometimes I just get plain old tired and wonder if I can think of anything new to say about food.

This is all to say that you aren't alone in having this type of crisis. But you should know that your blog is important to those of us who read it, and whether you're writing about the rich variety of food available to vegans or garnering support for farm animals, your blog is making a big difference in the world. Take some time off if you need it, but please don't go away completely!

Vegan_Noodle said...

As all the previous comments have mentioned, I love everything you write about Bazu. The important thing is being true to yourself, which you are doing! I love you food posts, but I also love discovering more about who you are and what you are passionate about.
What a great idea to turn a cupcake recipe into a cake! I need to follow the ppk forums better...
Look like a great birthday celebration for your mom, and how awesome that your family loved your vegan brunch!!

Ashasarala said...

I'm sure you've heard this before, but I love your photography! All the food looks so scrumptious, I could just eat it off the screen.

The cake is my favourite. You can tell it was made with love and it's very pretty too!

I will be at the Boston veggie fest. It's 10 minutes away from my house- how awesome is that? Hopefully I'll catch you there.

Since I'm new on the blogosphere, you may not recognize me... at all... haha So if you see some strange girl walking up to you, fear not! 'Tis only Suzie (or Ashasarala), the new kid on the block. ;)

Karen said...

That's what I love about your blog -- the variety. It is always interesting, well-written, and diverse. And the recipes are really yummy too! :) Keep up the great work!

Hannah said...

Hey, who ever said that you need to squeeze you blog into one definite category? Just keep doing you thing- As long as you write it, you can be sure that we (your "regulars") will read it!

And how cool is that- I'll be at the Boston VegFest too! Maybe I'll see you there! ;)

urban vegan said...

We have a Burmese restaurant here--I should go again, inspired by these yummy food porn shots. I know the owners are very politically active, so just to support them is nice.

Did you know that AC is just 1 hour from Philly, Bazu? I'm glad you had a good time. Can't wait to see the Boston recap.

You sure get around, girl.

Ryan said...

Glad you enjoyed Myanmar and I'm especially psyched you tried the green tea salad. I am addicted to that dish at the Sterling location.

Rural Vegan said...

Thank you for teaching me what a jackfruit is! Personally, I like blogs that throw in a political commentary or personal note every now and again. Veganism is not just about food, afterall!

VeggieGirl said...

PPPLLLEEEAAASSSEEEE do not stop blogging, Bazu - this is YOUR blog, so you should just write whatever you feel like!! You're an amazing writer, and I enjoy visiting your blog daily (to make sure that I don't miss any amazing posts!) Please keep up the good work, Bazu - I'm a faithful reader! :0)

Wow, such an amazingly delicious-looking celebration for your mom's birthday! The jackfruit sounds and looks particularly interesting - yum! and of course the brunch feast and your cake look spectacular as well!

Your trip to Atlantic city looks like fun - and I hope you have fun at the VFF in Boston!! Too bad I'm not in Boston anymore - I'd love to go! :0( Be sure to keep your promise of posting plenty of photographs and stories, upon your return :0)

Potato said...

I always enjoy reading your blog. It doesn't matter to me if the entry's about a recipe or politics or a restaurant or whatever. I think your personality comes through, and that's why I like it. This many readers can't be wrong. :)

bazu said...

Thank you for your comments, lovely people! I am definitely not going to stop blogging- just get a bit confused about the blog's direction every once in a while, that's all. You won't get rid of me that easily- ha! I've taken what you all have said to heart, and know that I shouldn't really worry about fitting one label or another, and should just keep writing what I need to write. And that's what I'll keep doing.

P.S. Urban Vegan, don't I know it! This is how close we got to Philadelphia on our drive. Boo!

vko said...

Oh, Bazu- what I actually love about your blog is that it is a little bit of everything, but always about compassion and calling out injustices and good good food.

Why fix it when it ain't broke?
And just wanted to let you know I got a lovely surprise in the mail- so unnecessary but thank you!!

Kati said...

I know exactly how you feel - I often go through these phases myself. I feel like you took the words right out of my mouth!

All your food looks terrific - how amazing that you got to prepare a vegan brunch for your family! Lucky you for having open minded diners...and lucky them for the delicious feast.

Loved your insights into apple picking, too. Your comments made for a fun and interesting read.

Enjoy your weekend in Boston!

Jody from VegChic said...

I feel the same way when I blog. Although I've tended to avoid politics and social issus besides up up until recently. Though I did have a few rants on the environment in the past.

It is important to voice opinions and share what you believe. Of course we also love to see what wonderful vegan stuff you are cooking up too.

That restaurant looks interesting. I did a have a jackfruit shake at one point, but I've never tried it in a dish.

Happy Birthday to your mom. It looks like you guys all had a great time. I wish I had a slice of that cake!

Melody Polakow said...

I share your despair about this country and world.

It's hard to blog sometimes.. when there are so many more important things going on... but then I look at my dog.. and realize.. that our vegan blogs HAVE to make a difference. I mean, you guys have for me when it comes to vegan food. I hardly EVER eat dairy now. The blogging community co-incides with that.
The way a society treats animals is how it treats its humans.

We suck and so do so many... if we all do the best we can.. we have to be making some difference.

Yesterday, I was in a school gym looking at a chocolate milk poster being the new energy drink.. and I got so pissed off, I had to go on and on to my co-workers... and they had never even heard of BHG. They were horrified... and said that they'd look for BHG free milk. Is that progress? Yes.. not perfections... but any small step is better than nothing. It has to be, or I will shoot myself..

and about the world... I feel the same way... small levels of collective positivity has to do something..

I hope I can make it to the festival.. I'm having serious car issues.. I hope it will be fines by tomorrow afternoon..
I soooo want to meet you and fellow bloggers!

reiskeks said...

Please sign the petition against Guillermo Habacuc Vargas, the 'artist' who starved a dog as an 'art exhibition', and/or spread the story to others. Here is the coverage so far: Thank You!

springsandwells said...

Hi Bazu!
I love your blog... whatever you talk about. Your fun and feisty spirit always shines through, and that's really why I keep coming back!

It's fun to read about your Birthday-Brunch-For-Mom, at last! So fun that we were both scheming up some vegan mommy brunches at the same time. And, I definitely agree, a few years ago, my family would have also been MUCH less cheery about an all-vegan brunch. Will I ever work them into accepting an all-vegan thanksgiving???? I doubt it, but hope springs eternal.

Wonderful that your special grandmother even liked the food and wants to experiment with tofu!!! It's so inspiration when older people are still willing to be adventurous and open-minded.

I just found out that I am going to India for sure (very exciting!) but I"ll be gone all of January, which I think means I'll miss your Northern California visit. Boo hoo! Hopefully we'll have a visit one time, here there or in Iran!

Can't wait to read about the Boston Veggie Food Fest... wow.

love Amey

Anonymous said...

I have never once read your blog and wondered what you were posting about or why! Your blog is an amazing resource, and I know that I am just adding to what others have already said, but I would read your blog no matter what! Please don't stop matter what you end up writing about, we will read!


Veganista said...

Bazu, where to start? An amazing post, gorgeous pics, what a cook you are! I was so interested in your Burmese food too, esp the jackfruit curry. I ate a lot of jackfruit fresh growing up, but there is a (probably similar) savoury coconut milk jackfruit dish in Indonesian cooking that I would love to have again.

I know what you mean though about that feeling of it all fits together, eating delicious Burmese food while thinking about the protests and trauma going on in that country. The academic I work for as an RA is a Burma expert so all of that has been very much on my mind lately...

I also sympathise with your comments about wondering where the blog is going and what you want to do with it. Like other readers commenting above, I just want to pass on some encouragement and say...I love coming here, reading the variety of thoughts, stories, recipes, seeing the photos. To me it's a great mix. And I think it does make a difference.

Ruthie said...

Bazu ~

I also had trouble with these thoughts until I realized something. My blog is my journal. It's where I post pictures of things in my life. If my life is revolving around yummy food, it will be on my blog, if it's revolving around anything else, travel, craft, frugality, social justice, eco-friendly living, whatever!, it will also appear on my blog. It's just my day to day thoughts and experiences, with no real direction or course. If others find that interesting, all the better. :-)


aTxVegn said...

I always learn so much from you, Bazu, whatever you write about. Your writing and photography are outstanding, so you do your thing and we'll keep reading.

I've only had frozen jackfruit and wasn't terribly impressed. It sounds nice in a savory dish. I love your brunch dishes and cake!

Christine said...

darling, I NEED to know where you found veggie cheesesteaks in AC. My bf drags me down there every year and I am tired of whatever I've managed to scrounge up down there over the years (salad?).

And you are allowed to have all the existential crises you want, as long as you blog about having them. Life has few answers and many contradictions, so think about as many as you can handle!

Anonymous said...

wow. that's all i can say. wow!!

Pink Theory said...

I looove all your blog posts! No matter what the topic, its always good reading!

The Burmese food looks great. I have never had any myself and am now intrigued. I am not surprised that your family agreed to have you cook brunch...your food always looks yummy! You can come cook me brunch anytime :-).

And the birthday cake looks amazing! It seems like it was a great birthday for your mom and a nice farewell to summer!

Theresa said...

Bazu, I love reading your blog, whether its about the food or your soapbox. Every food blog inspires me (and heaps of other people) to try new things, and every political rant makes me think about something in a different light. Good luck with your existential blog crisis, and keep on keepin' on.

Also, I love this post. That cake looks so tasty, even if the letters were a bit wonky!

Anonymous said...

As all the previous comments have mentioned, I love everything you write about Bazu!!

great cake!

dreamy said...

How can your blog be boring! I like seeing those nice pictures you always post! Post what you like to I like random stuff! :) Happy belated birthday to your mum!

julie said...

Bazu-I'll keep it short and sweet...I LOVE your blog! Also, I wish I could have been at that brunch!

Mikaela said...

What a post - that brunch looked to-die-for :)

Sarah C. said...

I don't myself blog, so take this as being simply from a reader: if your writing is great (it is), your pictures are clear (they are) and your subjects (all of them) are interesting (they very much are!), we readers don't necessarily care what category the blog fits into. I can understand that as a writer you might want categories and purposes, but we readers like to see where your process takes you and what your thoughts and experiences lead you to write about. So I'd say, keep it up and don't worry about the "meta" questions - the process IS the category/framework.

Isil Simsek said...

I understand you quite well,about the blogging.I sometimes felt the same,then something happened (a surprise,a new likeminded friend)and I continued.Hope you keep up your good work.
This last post is amazing!
It's great that your family agreed on the vegan brunch and loved it!
Mama's birthday cake looks scrumptious!Well done!

Candi said...

Bazu, I don't always get online much these days, but when I do, I always try to catch up on your blog. Your posts are fun, intelligent and so varied! I always learn something from you and you are so inspiring even if you don't even try! Your writing and your photos and your ideas all come together in such a fun and informative way that it's a pleasure to read everything you care to write about!!!!

Oh, and awesome cake! :P

Foodeater said...

Wow, the Burmese food looks amazing! I now must find a Burmese restaurant to eat at near me (and hope that they have similar tasty vegetarian options). I am continuously delighted by the awesome food that can be made with jackfruit.

VegeYum said...

Loved this post. Enjoyed reading it a lot. VY

Rachael said...

it doesn't matter whether you blog about "important" stuff or not because we'll all read it anyway....and who's to say food isn't important?

I got all excited when I saw this and thought that the burmese place was in Syracuse...but then I used my college-educated reading skills and realized my error. Oh well, now I know a good place to eat out if I'm ever in Virginia. We are going to check out Lao Village for the first time tomorrow night for Katie's birthday so that will have to be my exciting Syracuse food experience for the month.

scottishvegan said...

Bazu, I think you should continue to post about whatever you like! I would happily read about anything you choose to blog about! I love your blog and every time I read it I think "I wish my blog was as interesting,intelligent,heart warming,funny, informative, articulate, etc, etc as Bazu's"!!!

Anonymous said...

I, too, need to know where you found veggie cheese steaks in AC!

bazu said...

Christine and Anonymous,
I wish I could remember the name of the place with the veggie cheese steaks, but I can't! All I remember is that it was on the boardwalk, between the Hilton and the Taj Mahal (closer to the Taj Mahal) hotels, and that it had big signs and posters up front advertising its cheese steaks. They had "chicken" and "meat" and "veggie" options (all vegetarian). Good luck finding it, and let me know if you try them!

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