Saturday, January 31, 2009

All hail the power of Coco

Vita Coco, that is. I first came across this baby two years ago when my mom bought a couple packs of it on the recommendation of a doctor friend. Coconut water, he claimed, was hydrating and contained a healthy dose of nutrients needed for everyday consumption. But it wasn't until 2008 that Mom became serious about this 'miracle' drink. She noticed that it quenched her thirst more than tap or filtered water, and regular use even clears up the skin. Today, our family buys Vita Coco by the case at the local Indian supermarket. My little brother drinks it every day.

Take a look at the nutrient content: pure coconut water contains 230% Vitamin C! That's an insane amount. Not to mention the high potassium intake, which regulates the body's water balance. It also has plenty of phosphorous and magnesium, ingredients responsible for promoting healthy bones and teeth.

Personally, I like to drink coconut water after a cup of coffee (coffee being a diuretic and highly dehydrating) or during a workout. I find that Vita Coco is more effective at replenishing fluids and recharging electrolytes than Gatorade, Vitamin Water, or any of the other sports drinks on the market, which are usually just sugar disguised as athletic performance drinks.

Of course, Vita Coco is only one of many brands of coconut water available. You may also want to check out O.N.E. (One Natural Experience) and Zico, both of which can be found at most Whole Foods stores.

If you'd like to find out more about the healing properties of coconut water and what it can do for you, check out Coconut Research Center.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Finger-licking Childhood Memories

While watching the show Zeni Geba (2008) starring Ken'ichi Matsuyama of "Deathnote" fame, I was reminded of the powerful role that food plays in our lives - specifically, examples from the addictive medium called Japanese drama.

J-dramas are full of symbolic references that tie food to special memories. Like in Zeni Geba: When Gamigori Futarou (Matsuyama) tastes soy sauce mackerel from a local restaurant, he is reminded of the childhood meal his sickly mother would make for him. In their dire poverty, she took home buckets of mackerel from her workplace - fish that was supposed to be thrown out because mackerel is so cheap that it is not ordinarily eaten. Gamigori's mother firmly believed that it was more important to be a good, honest person than wealthy. She said that if a poor person worked really hard to achieve happiness, it was possible. However, she soon dies because she can't afford the medicine to cure her illness. Gamigori turns a hardened heart toward the world and becomes obsessively money hungry (not the type of hunger I endorse).

Or in Ryusei no Kizuna (2008), in which a murder suspect of the parents of three young siblings is discovered by the daughter of the deceased fourteen years later over a certain hayashi rice (Japanese-style beef stew) recipe that brings tears of recognition to her eyes.

In Hana Yori Dango (2006), arrogant rich boy Domyouji Tsukasa loses his memory of girlfriend Makino Tsukushi after a cliff-side accident. He is seduced by Nakajima Umi, a girl at the hospital he is staying at. Makino makes every attempt to get Domyouji to remember her, even baking the same homemade cookies that won over his heart the first time. Nakajima tries to pass off Makino's cookies as her own, hoping to make Domyouji fall for her, but when she is asked to recreate them, Domyouji realizes he has been duped. His memory may be bad, but his taste buds refuse to be deceived.

The heroine of Absolute Boyfriend (2008) moves up from lowly receptionist to an entrant in a national patisserie contest when her boss takes one bite of her light, airy cream puffs. These puffs trigger memories of his beloved grandfather's version, who was a baker himself.

Whether it's Mom's, Grandpa's, or your own, food can comfort people in times of distress. It can cure evil temperaments, restore balance to a relationship and even assist in recalling vital facts. Do not underestimate the power of an amazing dish! Now, all of this talk about mackerel, hayashi rice, cookies and cream puffs has made me ravenous. What's your favorite home-style dish?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Year of the Ox, Cont...

Roasted quail with shrimp chips and lemon.

Sesame lamb with onions and peppers (the green one scorched the back of my mouth).

Braised abalone, shiitake mushrooms and bok choy.

Fried tofu, snap peas, water chestnuts and carrots (my Uncle Alfred's favorite dish).

Honey walnut shrimp with broccoli.

As promised, the pics from my Chinese New Year feast (non-meat eaters may want to shield their eyes). Sorry, I can't remember the name of the restaurant but it's across the street from Sweet n Tart Cafe in Flushing. Some of my hungry relatives got their hands on the food before I could get a picture of it. Hence, the sparse roasted quail dish up top. The lamb was surprisingly non-gamey. Best of all, we requested the chefs not to use MSG, so no dizzy nausea at the end of a full meal. Ho bao!

Year of the Ox

It's the Year of the Ox! For all those who follow the Lunar New Year calendar, this past Monday was probably a night of nine-course suppers, rowdy family gatherings and ingestion of free-flowing amounts of booze.

This year has been a tumultuous one, especially with the recent economic crisis leaving hundreds of thousands unemployed and recent graduates scampering for jobs (yours truly included). On a more upbeat note, the swearing-in of our new President, Barack Obama, has lifted spirits from a black hole gloom that has shadowed the Bush administration over the past eight years. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Obama can fulfill all the promises he made, but he's off to a positive start. However, this blog isn’t about Obama. Or politics, for that matter (unless it involves food and drink).

Today represents my very first Heiwa Peas blog post. Why the name "Heiwa Peas"? Well, heiwa means "peace" in Japanese, and peace is a homonym for the English word "peas" -- so consider it a play on words, combining an abstract ideal (peace) with a more concrete reality (peas = food). More importantly, this is a food blog meant to describe and illustrate all the savory edibles that tickle my palate, emphasizing cultural diversity and risk-taking in matters of the stomach. Although I don't claim to cure world hunger, my hope is to spread peace and multicultural understanding through gastronomy. One post at a time. It might seem simplistic, but everyone's got to eat.

Let the sunshine in!

(Pictures to come, once my blog stops flashing me the "Error" message.)