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“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are” – Brillat-Savarin

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Yucatecan @ Chichen Itza Restaurant, Los Angeles (California, USA)

After we'd managed to pull our astronomy-obsessed boy from gawking at Space Shuttle Endeavour, we walked a short distance (about 1 km) to Mercado La Paloma, a small food court of sorts in a warehouse-like building. The walk itself was not interesting, but the space inside the Mercado La Paloma was rather attractive. It was a clean and bright marketplace, home to non-profit shops and several small restaurants offering authentic cuisines from Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Thailand and Ethiopia. The main draw for us was Chichen Itza Restaurant, specialising in Yucatecan cuisine. This was my first encounter with anything Yucatan, and the cuisine has Mayan, Spanish and Lebanese influences. I came across recommendations for the restaurant while searching for places to eat nearby the California Science Center, and we were keen to try a new cuisine. It was past 2pm by the time we arrived, but the food court was still bustling. Chichen Itza was still busy taking orders, and I was grateful that staff took the time to answer my questions. There is a good variety of affordably-priced dishes on the menu, and if I lived or worked in the area, I would definitely come back to try out everything on the menu.

The menu board and ordering counter at Chichen Itza Restaurant:

For the 6-year-old, Tacos de Pescado (US$5.25, order of 2) - moist breaded fish with tartare, cabbage and pico de gallo. The crunchy texture of the breading and the cabbage made for a pleasant mouthfeel, and I liked that the fish, though breaded and fried, was not overly greasy:

Salbutes (US$5.69, order of 2) - deep fried corn tortilla topped with lettuce, shredded turkey, pickled red onion, tomato and avocado. The deep fried tortilla makes it not the healthiest option, but it was tasty:

Torta de Pollo Asado (US$7.25) - a sandwich with charbroiled chicken, black bean, lettuce, tomato and roasted onions. Simple but flavourful and delicious:

We enjoyed this Yucatecan lunch at Chichen Itza Restaurant. The Mercado La Paloma is a good meal option near the California Science Center, and I would love the chance to try out the other restaurants.

[Prices quoted above do not include tax and tips.]

Chichen Itza Restaurant
#C6
3655 South Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007
United States
+1 213-741-1075

Chichen Itza on Urbanspoon

Monday, 18 May 2015

Hiking the Lamma Island Family Trail

Last Sunday was Mother's Day, and hubby and the kids treated me to an outing to Lamma Island. I love hiking, and I've been wanting to go to Lamma Island for the past four years, so indeed it was quite a treat! The weather forecast for rain threatened our plans, but I decided to take the risk. We were fortunate because it only drizzled during our time on the island, but the weather turned pretty bad in the evening after we had returned home. Lamma Island is the third biggest island in Hong Kong, and its main appeal is the abundance of natural scenery, and delicious fresh seafood. No automobiles are allowed on the island, and buildings have to be less than three storeys high. It is a nice change of pace and scene from the hectic city life, and in fact many expats live on Lamma Island. The ferry rides to and from Central are about 30 minutes duration, and the ferry schedules are fairly regular to and from Yung Shue Wan, the main population center on the island. We decided to ferry into Yung Shue Wan and hike the Family Trail to Sok Kwu Wan where we ate a very good and delicious seafood lunch before catching the return ferry back to Central. The Family Trail is paved, which made it possible to hike with baby girl in the stroller, but there are parts of the trail that are rough and cobbly, and many hills to climb and descend. The drizzle and humidity made it an uncomfortable hike, but overall it was quite a pleasant hike with beautiful views. We took about 1.5 hours to complete the 4km trail at an easy pace with a 6-year-old walking and a toddler in the stroller.

The view from the ferry pier at Yung Shue Wan:

At the end of the Yung Shue Wan Main Street, which has a lot of eateries and shops nearer the pier and more residential buildings as we got further from the commercial area:

Lots of green around:

A beach (Hung Shing Ye Beach) we came across on the Family Trail, which had a lifeguard station, barbecue and picnic facilities, as well as changing rooms, toilets and showers. Note the power station in the background:

We bought these baked goodies at a bakery we came across on Yung Shue Wan Main Street. Egg tart, coconut tart, glutinous rice cake and chiffon cake - carbs to fuel the 7km hike!

The Lamma Power Station is a prominent structure on this island, and is very hard to miss even if you tried:

A panoramic view at one of the high points on the trail (next to the Hilltop Pavilion). Click on image for a larger view:

Another panoramic view of Sok Kwu Wan village (click on image for a larger view):

Sok Kwu Wan's main street is lined with seafood restaurants and shops:

A shop selling dou fu hua and other sweets:

A red bean rice pudding-like sweet made with the special local pinky-red brown sugar:

Near the ferry pier is a little playground and a court:

I really enjoyed our day out in Lamma Island, and will post about our delicious seafood lunch up on the blog soon.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Nut-free Choco-coconut Bliss Balls

Bliss balls remind me of delicious truffles and choc balls, yet a whole lot more nutritious and just as quick and easy to make. The perfect snack to have on the go or to satisfy the sweet tooth without compromising on nutrition. I first encountered bliss balls on another food blog written by Daphne (from my hometown Perth!), and her dedication to clean-eating and healthy-living is admirable. Daphne's recipes set the bar high for healthy cooking, most of which are paleo and gluten-free, but unfortunately I have not been able to use any of her recipes because of the use of nuts or sesame - ingredients that are usually quite prevalent in gluten-free and paleo recipes - which my son is allergic to. On the weekend I had about 20 minutes of rare spare time on my hands, so I decided to try making bliss balls that are safe for my son using the ingredients I already had in my kitchen. It was a spontaneous decision, and I didn't have time to look at any recipes for proportions of dry and liquid ingredients, so I was quite lucky that what I put in the bowl the first time worked well to form balls of moist, delicious goodness. My son loved these chocolate balls, and was none-the-wiser that these were a whole lot healthier than the chocolate biscuits and homemade chocolate muffins that he eats occasionally.


I made only a small amount for my test run, and when my recipe got the approval of my guinea pigs (hubby and son), I made a bigger batch that yielded 10 bliss balls. I wish I had a more robust food processor to make bigger batches, but my stick blender could not cope even with this small quantity of ingredients, and it went bust during the making of these bliss balls. Since this is a nut-free recipe, I imagine that these bliss balls are almost as easily made without a food processer (only the dates require chopping). The dates provide natural sweetness and chewiness, and is (in my opinion) a fundamental ingredient to a successful bliss ball recipe. To make up for the lack of nuts (hence protein and fat) in this recipe, I added some organic (vegan) protein powder to increase the protein content, and used organic coconut oil to add fat and moisture. The dessicated coconut I used is a reduced fat version (leftover from when I made some Anzac biccies), and I would have much rather the full-fat version, but this was the only type of coconut I could find in all of Hong Kong! Taking a quick look at the ingredients I used, I was pleasantly surprised to see that majority are organic. Organic products are more expensive, but you cannot put a price on health. These bliss balls took only six ingredients, very easy to make, and what a fantastic healthy option for the snack box!

Nut-free Choco-coconut Bliss Balls

Makes 10 bliss balls, depending on size

Ingredients


75 grams dates
30 grams reduced-fat dessicated coconut (this would be approximately equivalent in volume to 50g of non-reduced-fat dessicated coconut)
10 grams cocoa powder
25 grams protein powder
25 grams honey
15 mL coconut oil (melted if it is solidified)

Method

Simply put the ingredients into a food processor, whiz until combined, then roll into balls! Store in the fridge, and it should be good for one or two weeks (though these were gone in a couple of days).

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Space Shuttle Endeavour @ California Science Center, and Stars @ Hollywood Walk of Fame

Our 6-year-old has been an astronomy freak since he was 3, so it was a no-brainer decision to add to our Los Angeles itinerary a visit to the California Science Center to have a close look at the retired Space Shuttle Endeavour. The boy was really excited about seeing an actual space shuttle in person, and the visit didn't disappoint. There were many other exhibits at the Science Center, but we spent majority of our time in the shed that housed the space shuttle, as that was the main purpose of our visit. We then headed out to Hollywood to check out the stars at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The Exposition Park Rose Garden located opposite the California Science Center, which was closed at the time of our visit (it is closed between January and March every year for pruning) so we could only view from outside:

Outside one of the entrances/exits to the California Science Center:

Looking at one of the exhibits, a Viking Lander:

The Space Shuttle Endeavour!

A view of Endeavour's main engines:

A closer look at one of the main engines:

Another angle of the space shuttle:

Walking on stars along Hollywood Boulevard:

The star of the former Governor of California:

Hubby wanted to see the Hollywood sign, so we headed to the rear patio of the Hollywood & Highland Center Mall for a good view of the sign:

The Four Ladies of Hollywood gazebo (aka Hollywood La Brea Gateway):