I have the best friends. I really do. I am blessed that way. One of my dearest friends lives right across the hall from me and is also a food blogger. Many of you know him from Red Cook, a wonderfully creative Chinese home-cooking blog.
Kian and his husband Warren are perfect neighbors. They let us borrow garlic when we run out and always have tubs of vegetable oil that I can use for stir-frying, when the only thing I have on hand is olive oil. They feed our cats when we go to Australia. Warren greets us at the door in his socks and underwear, something that is no longer shocking and actually a little comforting. And they barely even notice or comment when our house looks like a tank drove through it, which it nearly always does. Perfect neighbors, I tell you.
When you live next door to a Chinese chef who is constantly putting out amazing, creative dishes that range from familiar comfort foods to sea slug, and using all kinds of exotic vegetables that you had no idea existed, and who uses all kinds of techniques that you've only read about, well, you either raise your game in the kitchen and let the chef take you to school, or get out and eat whatever he puts in front of you. My tack is to do both.
Sometimes people can change you just by being around you and being themselves. Kian has almost single-handedly made me a better cook.Because of all this, it was perfect that Kian and Warren were the first to give the girls their first real Chinatown experience. And it was an incredible first trip...
We went to a temple, where Lucy took lots of pictures of gaudy plastic Buddhas. I downloaded 34 pictures of the souvenir case.
Then, we ate dim sum at a restaurant called The Golden Unicorn, which as you might have guessed the girls think is the best name ever for a restaurant.
And then Warren thought the girls would like to see a shop with stuff for dead Chinese people to take with them to "the other side". Turns out elaborate $500 paper houses with ferraris in the driveway are right up my kid's alley. She took 26 shots of paper money, paper dolls, yachts and life-size paper shoes.
Then, we went to a noodle shop and watched them make dumplings.
And ate a lot of them standing around on the sidewalk.
Then, we looked at all kinds of shops.
Including one with candy.
And Kian ate a bag of Squid chips which smelled, like, well, squid, and were the most disgusting thing I ever ate. And this from a girl who has eaten slug, conch and a dead shark that washed up on shore during our last vacation with Kian. You could actually smell the dank, sea-weedy part of the ocean as the chip was on it's way into your mouth. I vomit a little in my mouth just thinking about it.
And then, we played with cheap plastic toys on the street. This took up two hours, easy.
And then, we saw a pail of frogs and all the people taking them home to have them as pets.
And then, I had to have the conversation where I told Lucy what the people were really going to do with them. That sucked.
And then, we walked our tired bodies to the playground and played, while Warren and Kian relaxed on a bench. Lucky bastards.
And then, we ate our spoils. Me, I got some pork belly. (I am actually much prettier than this in real life.)
For the girls, Kian suggested we buy some dragon fruit. This was a good call because 1) It's pink. 2) It tastes like Kiwi. 3)It has a dragon in it's name.
How can a kid not eat something that is pink and named after a magical creature? Lucy, in particular loved it.
Seriously, dragon fruit. Buy it the next time you are at an Asian grocer. Your kids will think you are a genius, fruit-inventor.
And thanks Warren and Kian for a magical first trip to Chinatown.