What makes someone “interesting”?
Rob and I were discussing this. He thinks we’re interesting. We do a lot of things that are a bit out of the ordinary. Ignoring, of course, the obvious foodie fetishes (whole foods vegan is interesting? hehe).
1. We learn by gardening. Wherever we live, we’re the house with (edible) kale and collards in the front yard.
2. We like to cycle. Not only for commuting, but also our crazy long distances of years yonder. At one time, anything within 200km was fair game.
3. We go to the gym. My preferences are spinning, combat, shred and pump. (Not sure that makes me interesting but I can tell you how much I can squat for 5 minutes!)
4. We like to travel. Rob and I have traveled a few places together (Iceland, Colombia and multiple places in the US), but we met each other with passports already filled. Literally, Rob’s passport was filled after a year spent backpacking in Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Mine had stamps for a few places.
This is beyond what we do for work… Rob knows all about mobile devices and its software, whereas I am a resident in pathology.
Those are fun things to chat about because I can’t tell you much about television shows (except my adoration for Dexter and Drop Dead Diva), movies (I used to watch a lot more movies) or make intelligible conversations about politics. We have no TV, although that does not excuse the latter. Rob usually keeps me abreast of internet meme sensations. People like to talk about renovations and home design, whereas we both are pretty clueless on that front. Case in point: The only furniture we bought after we moved in together two years ago was a new bed… and Rob bought himself a new desk after our second move (because he broke the first one dismantling it for the move, hehe).
Does that make us interesting? It just makes us us.
The people who find us interesting likely have similar interests… otherwise, we’d just be boring to them. ;)
I was recently reading through Rob’s (mostly neglected) blog and it brought back great memories. Cycling, travelling, birthdays. This year has been tough for me as I focus more on studying and less on my hobbies. Our last vacation (in Colombia) seems like such a distant memory. Our vacation this year will be our road trip to our new home in Houston. A bit shorter than usual at only a week, but we’ll still cover a lot of ground. Probably around 3000 km if we do a few detours. Once in Houston, we plan to capitalize on short trips to South and Central America (I hope!). And, let’s not forget our upcoming summer trip for Burning Man. Anyone else going? This will be my first time and Rob’s third visit.
A lot of happiness spurs from memories of our experiences. It is true that you forget the bad parts, or at least use the bad parts as fodder for jokes. The highlights stick with you most. The excitement of being in a hot air balloon overtop Turkey’s enchanting fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, or jumping into Icelandic hot springs after a frigid hike up a mountain, watching icebergs float to sea, hiking through a Colombian jungle to see The Lost City, waking up at the crack of dawn to go snowshoeing in freshly laid snow in Horseshoe Valley or the tears of joy after cycling to Niagara Falls and being greeted by a rainbow. I can’t believe this all happened within the past 3 years. It is amazing what we can do if we set our mind to it.
Getting back to one of our biggest hobbies, though: food!
Intertwined with our travels, food can transport us back to those memories. Rob has recreated some of his favourite meals from his time while backpacking, including Vegetarian Khao Soi. One of his memorable meals from Thailand, it is a brothy coconut curry with boiled egg noodles and tofu, topped with crispy fried egg noodles. His go-to recipe is not Janet-friendly with red curry paste (our store-bought version has shrimp paste in it and is super spicy), fried noodles and fish sauce. Undeterred to share his love of khao soi with me, he decided to make this recipe with a few substitutions along the way.
A bit more involved than his original recipe, this version has you making your own curry paste from fresh turmeric (yes!), ginger, cilantro, garlic and chilies. No shrimp here. It is used to flavour a coconut curry broth that is studded with tempeh, noodles, lime and cilantro. I used kelp noodles for mine whereas Rob prefers the egg noodles. Absolutely delicious.
If you find yourself in Thailand, this dish can be found for a bargain for only $1. Although it may not be vegan-friendly, so why not try to make it at home instead? :)
So, please tell me… what makes you or someone else interesting?
Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Khao Soi)
Adapted from Roots
4 dried chilies, seeded
5 slices peeled ginger, each 1/2 cm thick4 shallots, unpeeled
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
15g piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and cut into 1 cm thick pieces
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
1/2 tsp salt
30 fresh cilantro stems, cut into 1 cm pieces
14 oz can low-fat coconut milk (unsweetened)
1 tbsp coconut oil
8 oz tempeh, chopped into 1-cm cubes
1 tbsp sugar (omitted)
2 cups water
2 tbsp tamari, soy sauce or Bragg’s (the original recipe called for 2 tbsp fish sauce + 1 tbsp dark soy sauce)
1 tsp salt, or to taste (we used less)
1 tbsp fresh lime juice (or to taste)
1 lb dried Chinese-style egg noodles (or 16 oz kelp noodles if you are me!)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup (10g) cilantro leaves
1 lime, sliced into wedges
1. Begin by making your kao soi paste. (You could also substitute red curry paste as found in Rob’s original recipe but Rob preferred this recipe). Place chiles in warm water and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the remainder of the ingredients. Place ginger, shallots, garlic, turmeric and soaked chiles onto a baking sheet and broil for 5-10 minutes until charred and fragrant. Watch so that they do not burn. The garlic and shallots may take longer so eye each ingredient individually.
2. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove the peel from the shallots and garlic. It should be easy to remove. In a spice grinder or small food processor, combine charred vegetables, coriander seeds, salt, cilantro stems and grind into you achieve a smooth paste, scraping down the sides as required. Add water or coconut milk if your processor is struggling with making a paste. The paste may be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days or use it immediately to make kao soi.
3. Open the can of coconut milk without shaking it. Separate the thick cream from the watery liquid part, placing each it a separate cup.
4. In a large pan, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add kao soi paste and stir fry around 30 seconds. Add the thick coconut milk and cook, stirring constantly until it comes to a simmer. Add the tempeh and optional sugar and cook until the tempeh is warm, around 5 minutes. Stir in the thin coconut milk, water, soy sauce and salt and return to a simmer. Simmer until tempeh absorbs some of the flavours, another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Set aside until ready.
5. Meanwhile, cook your noodles. For kelp noodles, just rinse them. You could fry a portion of the noodles as a garnish for an authentic kao soi, but we skipped that this time (for directions, see Rob’s original recipe). I also don’t think kelp noodles can be deep-fried!
6. To serve, divide the noodles among 4 bowls and ladle the tempeh curry overtop. Top with deep-fried noodles if you’ve done that, then sprinkle with green onions, cilantro and a slice of lime.