Flourless Chocolate Brownies With Sea Salt

A few of my proudest accomplishments this year include: landed an in-house photography job, tried out and stayed on a sports team this spring (the last time I played in competitive sports was elementary school), signed a lease on an apartment (cannot wait to move in next month), committing to put down roots in this transitional city of Vancouver, and the creation of these fabulous flourless chocolate brownies. 

On days when I feel doubt about trading my freelance life for a nine to five — I make brownies and take them into the office. It is simply impossible to eat more than 3 pieces of these brownies and having coworkers to share them with is a very ideal situation. These will never fail to hit the spot when you need a decadent treat in hope that you can stop at three pieces. A timeless brownie recipe.

You know you have created an excellent brownie when both of the recipe developers at work ask you for the recipe. I first had these at a ladies night and immediately asked my friend for the recipe. I am pretty sure the original creator is Nicole Spiridakis. Here is my version with reduced sugar, roasted nuts and sprinkled with Maldon sea salt

Ps: I finally ordered a cooking scale off the internet. It really is worth it when you want to use up the many dark Trader Joe chocolate bars sitting in your cupboard and not worry about fitting them into measuring cups. 

flourless_chocolate_brownies_sea_salt_-6-1.jpg
flourless_chocolate_brownies_sea_salt_sophia_hsin.jpg

Flourless Chocolate Brownies With Sea Salt and Nuts

140g dark chocolate
155g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
150g brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
50g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
11/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup almond or walnuts, chopped
Maldon sea salt for garnish (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking pan or sheet with parchment paper.

  2. In 15-30 second intervals, melt chocolate and butter in the microwave and stir until smooth. Set aside too cool. Add brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, and eggs. In that order. Mix but do not over-mix. Transfer batter to baking pan or sheet with a spatula. Top with walnuts.

  3. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until brownie is set and firm in the centre. Time will vary depending on container size. Let sit until cool before cutting into pieces. Top with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

These are very delicious eaten cool or slightly warmed. They also keep well in the fridge up to a week. If they last that long.

How to Make Tuna Onigiri Rice Balls

how_to_make_tuna_onigiri_rice_ball_5.jpg

Onigiri! This is a recipe for a little snack that accompanied my childhood years in Taiwan. Found in all of the 7–11 or convenience stores, these triangle-shaped rice balls were many of my breakfast, lunch and late-night snacks.

Even though I have never been to Japan, Taiwanese culture is a culture that is greatly influenced by Japan — who ruled over Taiwan in the 1800s. Some of the influence can be found in old Japanese buildings that are now tea houses or galleries, neat lines at the MRT, my grandpa who spoke Japanese, and a millennial generation that is all about Japanese culture.

These onigiri’s! I remember standing in my school uniform (white collared shirt, pleated skirt, bright orange hat), eagerly choosing my flavour of the day. My favourites — pork floss with mayo, egg, salmon, or chicken teriyaki. Sometimes I would opt out of onigiri’s and go for the traditional Taiwanese rice balls. A heavier version made with sticky rice, fried salty donut, radish pickles, stuffed with pork floss and sprinkled with peanut sugar. They were heavy enough to fill you for hours and go down your tummy very well with a cup of soy milk.

There is something about rolling and shaping warm rice together in your palms. I don’t know if it is the scent of warm rice or act of making onigiri’s that make me want to eat them immediately after. These are great as snacks on the go, picnics, a light meal, or give away and impress your friends.

how_to_make_tuna_onigiri_rice_balls_5-1.jpg
how_to_make_tuna_onigiri_rice_balls.jpg

Tuna Onigiri Rice Balls

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked sushi rice
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 green onion stem, thinly sliced (you can also use cucumber)
1 can of tuna in salted water
1/2 avocado, diced
2 tbs greek yogurt (or mayo)
1 nori sheet, cut into small rectangles

Instructions

  1. Wash rice in a sieve until water is clear. Add 1.5 cup of water and cook until rice is tender. About 15 mins. Let cool.

  2. While rice is cooking, mix can of tuna (squeeze saltwater out with lid when you open the can), avocado, green onions and greek yogurt. Mash and add salt and pepper to taste

  3. Gently fluff rice with a fork. Fold in sugar, rice wine vinegar and salt with a spatula. Don’t over mix.

  4. Place a piece of saran wrap on your hand and measure 1/3 cup of seasoned rice into the wrap. Flatten rice into a flat shape and create an indent in the centre. Spoon in tuna filling and gently form rice into a ball using the saran wrap.

  5. Using your hands, form the rice ball into a triangle. Take off the plastic wrap and wrap a piece of nori around the bottom.

  • The trick to a good onigiri to use rice that is freshly cooked and slightly warm. I felt very Japanese waking up at 7 am to make these for lunch. They will keep for a while in a sealed box in the fridge.

  • The original recipe called for cucumber but I found the green onions to be a nice change.

  • I made these again and mixed in a few spoonfuls of furikake. They were delicious and disappeared very fast at the potluck I brought them to. Enjoy!

how_to_make_tuna_onigiri_rice_balls_1.jpg

Dog Shaped Cookies for Dog Lovers | A Recipe

dog-shaped-cookies-recipe-chocolate-6.jpg

I have always been a dog person. Sorry to disappoint my cat loving friends but there is something simply irresistible about dogs. The fluff, the woof, the wag. The joyful leap they make towards you at the end of a long day. That grin when they destroy your beloved possessions and get away with it just because.

For me, the one thing that gets me about travel is the inability to bring your fluffy friends with you. My first dog Lisa the Akita died young (the drama queen in me likes to think it was from heartache) when my family immigrated to Canada. My dachshund who I left behind for college is now retired in Shanghai after many moves, travels, and change of homes. The family discussions, tearful goodbyes, and a little canine who will faithfully wag their tail serving whichever master they end up with.

This post is dedicated to all the dogs I have ever loved and photographed. A dog photo book is the list for projects I want to create and I trust that I am getting close to the process everyday. In the meantime, I will be content making dog shaped cookies.

This is a recipe adapted from Not quite Nigella and Baking Taitai. It is actually a recipe for Weihnachtsplätzchen — German sugar cookies eaten during advent. I love the addition of potato starch which gives the cookie a very biscuit-like texture. Good for convincing yourself you are eating vegetables when having a cookie too many.

These cookies can be time consuming cookie to make. My advice is to invite at least one friend to help with dough rolling, the application of cereal ears and sesame eyes. The end product is meant to be shared with at least four friends.

dog_shaped_cookies_recipe.jpg
dog-shaped-cookies-recipe-chocolate-3.jpg
dog-shaped-cookies-recipe-chocolate-5.jpg

Dog shaped cookies for dog lovers
*
Makes around 20 cookies 

Ingredients

• 1.5 cup flour
• 2 cup potato starch
• 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2/3 cup icing sugar
• 1 cup unsalted butter
• Chocolate cereal for ears (I found a box at Wholefoods in Vancouver)
• Black sesame seeds for eyes
• Baking chocolate chips for noses

Directions

1. Combine butter and sugar (wet ingredients). Beat until fluffy. Add vanilla and beat until combined.
2. Combine potato starch and plain flour (dry ingredients). Mix until combined.
3. Thoroughly mix dry and wet ingredients. Cover with wrap and rest for half an hour or longer (I pre-make the dough and leave it in the fridge)
4. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Scoop dough into similar sized balls and flatten onto surface of tray. Add two chocolate cereal ears and chocolate chip nose. Use a tweezer to add sesame seed eyes (this step requires a lot of patience)
5. Bake at 340F for 15 minutes or until cookie bottoms are golden.

Notes: 

*For cocoa cookies, add a scoop of cocoa powder into the dough and mix until the colors are combined.  Additionally, you can expand from dog cookies to every kind of animal. 

animal-shaped-cookies-recipe-chocolate-7.jpg

Enjoy

My first dog Akita Lisa + brother | Shot on film in Taiwan, 1992

My first dog Akita Lisa + brother | Shot on film in Taiwan, 1992

A Recipe: Roasted Korean pears with Ginger

roasted_korean_pears_with_ginger.jpg

One of my new year goals for 2019 is to write more — and what better subject to write about than food? Asian culture is a culture that revolves heavily around food. The making, the eating, the sharing. Oftentimes revolved around gossip, singing, or maybe a game of mahjong for the uncles and aunties. It is something I am really excited to share.

These pears were grown by Papa Hsin in his yard in Canada. As Asian parents go, I didn’t grow up knowing my dad as he spent a lot of time working. As a child, sometimes the only interaction we will have is when he signed my report cards every week (a moment where I will tremble slightly, even though I have always been a top student). But food — will forever be a way Asian parents show love. A catch-up session with Papa Hsin will always start with him pulling out fruit, steamed buns or something he made from his bag and handing it over with a smile. I think it is his peace offering for all the smiles he didn't give me when he signed my report cards.

Similar to me, my dad grew up in many places. One of my favorite subjects to ask him about is the time when he lived in Saudi Arabia and worked as a martial arts trainer for the police force. The stories of endless deserts, lizard hunting with bearded men, drinking camel milk and getting lost in sandstorms. Terrorism, female rights. They were the stories that teleported me to faraway places and planted in me a seed for travel and social justice. In fact — one of my career goals as a high school student was to become a journalist and cover stories of war and in the Middle East. Of course, that didn’t end up happening and today, both of us settled in Canada where I work as a photographer and him as a retired officer. I like to think that we are both finding our peace and place here. Him in his garden, hosting dinners with Chinese neighbors and me in the kitchen, behind the camera, or off backpacking to another exciting location.

Food to me will always be magic. It is the art of creating something from simple and good ingredients. Food is a vehicle for stories, culture, and tradition. A delicious reminder that we are cared for and thought of.

So here to the new year, I hope it will be one filled with stories and meals shared over tables with conversations that are long and good.

korean_pears_still_life.jpg
roasted_korean_pears_with_ginger_recipe.jpg
baked_pears_ginger_brown_sugar_recipe.jpg

Roasted Korean pear with ginger

Ingredients:

• 4 Korean pears. Sliced in half with the seeds removed

• 1 tbsp fresh ground ginger*

• A dash of ground cinnamon

• A squeeze of lemon juice

• 1 tbs brown sugar (opt out if you aiming for less sugar)

Directions: 

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. 

2. Place pears on a baking tray with cut sides up. Sprinkle ground ginger, cinnamon powder, lemon juice on pears. Top with brown sugar.

3. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender. 

4. Let the pears cool before serving, preferably with vanilla ice cream. Preferably with a friend. Enjoy.

*I like to use organic ginger since I find it more pungent. I've also found ginger jam to be a good substitute.

A photo of me and Papa in his yard. Shot on film in 2017.

A photo of me and Papa in his yard. Shot on film in 2017.

Happy New Year!

Pender Grocery: Artist Interview + Pan Con Tomate Recipe

pender_grocery_vancouver_british_columbia_artist_interview-10.jpg
spanish_bodega_vancouver_british_columbia_artist_interview-2.jpg

With its 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 in the Basque region, how he discovered his passion for through travel, and their vision to cultivate slow living in a busy city. For a moment in time, my mind is transported to apple fields, farmer markets, old Europe towns through the relaxed ambiance that the store seems to emit.

Tell me how you went 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_street_grocery_vancouver_british_columbia_interview-7.jpg
pender_street_grocery_vancouver_british_columbia_interview.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 together?

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. Some favourites are passed down from Kelly’s late grandmother.

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 consist of working professionals and residents from 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.

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 good snack can be a 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. A tasty high-end treat.


heirloom_tomato_organic_grocery_vancouver_bc.jpg
spanish_bodega_vancouver_british_columbia_artist_interview-1.jpg

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 a plate and sprinkle with sea salt
• Top with fresh basil

Enjoy!