Another Day of Hiking

i love hiking. there is something therapeutic about walking through trees on a quiet morning.. the crisp air and the chill.. the smoky blue mountains in the distance.. it calms me, and it quite humbles me.

my boyfriend and i have always hiked around lake hodges. i’m not sure exactly which trails we’ve hiked since there are quite a few that loop around and meet at certain points. once, when san diego was blessed with a really rainy season, the entire hillsides were enveloped with yellow wildflowers and it was so lovely. another hike (this one i remember, bernardo mountain summit) had brought us to a breathtaking view with crepuscular rays at the top. two weekends before christmas, my boyfriend and i “took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” – robert frost. san diego hadn’t seen rain for awhile and i wasn’t expecting too much of a scenic view for a hike around lake hodges around this time of year, but instead of going right like we always did, we decided to go left.

we saw some beautiful yellowing trees. there was an abundance of fat sparrows flitting about. and when we looked westward towards the lake, i felt for an instant as though we were no longer in san diego. for some reason, taking pictures through a fish eye lens on my iphone helped transport me to another place, another time, on this hike. it was a quiet stroll with not very much foot traffic. there was peace. there was the realization that something i have been familiar with all these years can still be beautiful.

15-Minute Dinner

i love eating. but i don’t like cooking. i think i would enjoy cooking a lot more if it weren’t for the cleaning up part. luckily, i stumbled upon an easy 15-minute dinner recipe with very little cleaning involved. i don’t know what it’s called since i just threw a few ingredients together. it’s kind of a knock-off version of thit kho (vietnamese caramelized pork belly), except i use spare pork ribs.


  • chop the spare pork ribs (usually 1.5 – 2 lbs) into bite sized pieces (i usually cut along the cartilages/bones between the meat)
  • rinse the pieces to get rid of the blood and then drain well
  • heat a medium sized pan (high heat) with 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • toss in about 1-2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • once minced garlic starts to brown slightly, toss in the drained meat pieces (careful, oil will start splashing!)
  • sprinkle in salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • stir well until meat pieces are lightly browned all over and then lower the heat to medium (if you find that there’s too much meat juice in the pan at this point, drain it out)
  • toss in 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce and continue stirring
  • toss in 1/2 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
  • then toss in a large pinch (probably 1 tablespoon) of brown sugar
  • keep stirring until meat is cooked thoroughly and serve with white rice
  • this last part is optional, but you can chop up a handful of cilantro and one bunch of green onion as well and toss into the pan at the very end

Pork Spare Ribs

i also love eating this with a thai chili pepper! you can’t tell, but the rice in the picture was actually under-cooked :[ i didn’t realize until after i took a bite. if you’ve never cooked rice over the stove in a pot, it’s pretty simple! equal parts water and rinsed rice (i never understood the finger rule). bring the pot (covered) to a boil and then let rice simmer for about 10-15 minutes until cooked to the consistency that you desire.


Comfort Food

my dad is buried at the greenwood memorial park down in south san diego. i visit him from time to time throughout the year and every time i go, i always make a pit stop at the mom and pop shop down the street: bane phonkeo’s (110 47th st, 92102). this hole in the wall place sells legit laotian/thai food. their sien hang, or beef jerky, is fried to crispy-on-the-outside-tender-on-the-inside perfection. there is so much flavor packed into one strip of meat. their papaya salad with a spicy level of medium is so delectable and pairs really well with white sticky rice. and the beef larb, medium spicy level as well, definitely hits the spot. it’s a little bit of crunchy, a little bit of sour, and a little bit of spicy all rolled into minced beef.

this. this is comfort food to me. i have fond memories of my mother cutting up strips of beef, baking it in the oven, which made the whole apartment smell amazing, and letting the meat out to dry in the sun for days.. then the waking up to the smell of sticky rice cooking in the bamboo steamer and realizing that the sien hang was ready to be eaten. it is the laborious act of love in which my mom made sien hang for us that this mom and pop shop brings me back to my childhood :]