“Ita daki mas” – summer in Japan

“Ita daki mas” – summer in Japan

I have always been skeptical of the old adage that travel is the best learning experience. However, after traveling to Japan for a two-week cultural immersion program, I have become a firm believer that travel is indeed the best learning experience.

Get ready for a photo overload, especially of food since I’m a foodie 🙂
img_7099.jpg

On the flight to Japan. Despite all the bad news of United recently, this 14 hour trip actually went pretty well. I had so many cups of green tea during the flight which I oh-so regretted later.

img_7108.jpg

My first breakfast in Japan – guys they have green tea granola. Let’s just say that I was obsessed.

img_7190.jpg

Visiting the aquarium – the jellyfish were so cool!

img_7256.jpg

The Big Buddha – little did I know when taking this trip that I would be in for a long hike in the nearby mountains.

IMG_7259

The hike was only half as bad as its length because aren’t these hydrangeas beautiful? These flowers were peppered all throughout the hike. Apparently, they are called the June flower in Japan.

IMG_7273

After a long and tiring hike, and an even tiring hour-long wait for the restaurant, we ate udon. Oh. my. goodness. The wait was definitely worth it because the udon was so good. There was also tempura and the chefs just made it right in front of you. Warm tempura is always the best.

IMG_7292.JPG

To cool ourselves off after the long hike, we got green tea and sweet potato ice cream. I know, the combination sounds weird, but guys, it was so good!

IMG_7299.JPG

Here is Takoyaki. It’s a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special moulded pan. It is typically filled with minced or diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion. It was delicious, but very hot! I could have watched the chefs making takoyaki all day long, it was such carefully methodical process.

img_7303.jpg

Apparently this is a hit-or-miss not only with foreigners but with local Japanese. It’s something called natto. It is fermented soybeans that can be eaten by mixing it with rice. I actually enjoyed the taste which my host family was very impressed by as only a few Japanese people actually enjoy it! Of course, as a foodie, as long as it’s healthy and relatively tasty, I’m always good 🙂

IMG_7316

On one of the nights, my host, my host sister and their cousin met up and ate out for dinner at a Hawaiian restaurant. It was so much fun hanging out with them – so much laughing and fun while with these three. The pancakes for dessert were equally as good, although we all regretted eating them because we became so full afterwards.

It wasn’t the healthiest option, but these days, I’m all about balance and moderation and that being mentally healthy is as equally as important as being physically healthy.

img_7388.jpg

My host introduced these to me, but apparently, these chocolates help reduce how much fat and sugar you absorb. My host and I both being foodies, ate a few of these chocolates just for good measure!

IMG_7846

Japan was just beautiful. Here are a few non-food pictures that are so beautiful.

IMG_7477

IMG_7494

IMG_7513

One of my favorite dinners while in Japan.

IMG_7720

I’ve always heard that you never know the taste of matcha unless you try it yourself. So I tried to try matcha as many times as I could. It’s definitely not as sweet as the matcha we taste at Starbucks or in the States. It’s a much more bitter taste but somehow has some charm to it. I actually brought home a matcha kit so I could continue making it at home! Once I’ve mastered it a bit, I’ll write up a post for those interested!

Japan was in short, such an amazing trip. I can’t wait to go back there someday!

IMG_7828

After two weeks in Japan, I took a two hour flight to Korea and stayed there for a week. My parents were already in Korea at that time so I met up with them at Incheon airport. After a quick week of meeting up with old childhood friends and family, we left Korea and finally headed back to home sweet home!

 

P.S.: In nod to the title of the post, “ita taki mas” is what Japanese people say before they start their meal. It’s kind of like saying “Thank you for this meal, I will eat it gladly!” I loved saying this every time before I ate because literally every time I ate something, it looked and was super delicious!

P.S.: If my host and her family or any of her friends are reading this, thank you for letting me have such a memorable trip!

 

 

Last Weekend Home

Last Weekend Home

I can’t believe my 18 day spring break is already over!!!!! (insert wailing emoji face here)

When I came down home on March 2nd, I was so happy, excited for all the fun and lazy things I would be doing over the 18-day break. The first few days are always spent wasteful, while the last few days are crammed and jammed with lots of events and friends. This weekend was exactly that: my last weekend home was probably the most jam-packed weekend I’ve ever had.

In imitation of one of my FAVE bloggers and girlfriends I’ve been blessed to find through blogging, Mackenzie, I decided to do a little weekend recap. While it’s not as interesting and fun as her weekend recaps, hopefully I can show you how much I crammed it during these last few days.

Throughout the whole weekend, I managed to “finish” one KDrama series. Now don’t think I watched all 16 episodes in a span of two/three days. Nah. I decided on Friday night that I wanted to watch this drama called “Weightlifting Fairy Nam Bok Joo.”I watched in total 4 episodes in total and most of the other episodes I watched clips on YouTube or inferred (it was quite a mental game to guess what happened in prior episodes I didn’t watch haha).

weightlifting-fairy_1560x872
Here’s the direct link to watch it in Viki. Beware! Warning!

I was intrigued at the plot synopsis as many people praised how it spread such a positive message of just being yourself and never be ashamed of who you are and to love yourself and those around you. As the title shows, the female lead was a collegiate weightlifter training to be an Olympic weightlifter. Due to her athletic commitments, she has a heavier build, has callouses on her hands, does not have a lot of time to spare, and eats a lot – things that make it hard for her to date guys unlike the stick-skinny gymnasts across her dormitory. But her best guy-friend (later turned boyfriend) emphasizes how important the INSIDE is rather than the outside.

This drama was really such a perfect drama for me since I’ve been struggling and dealing with that EXACT topic this week (as you could obviously tell from the ‘deeper’ blog posts I’ve been posting). So all in all, it was a light and airy drama which had characters that were very real and problems that were very real and understandable. If you are a KDrama fan, I highly recommend! (If you’re a newbie to KDrama I recommend “My Love from Another Star”).

Besides walking around the house holding my iPad watching KDrama (I don’t watch TV sitting down, I try to fit in some walking while I watch TV – efficiency my friends!), I did play some golf. I spent the entire Saturday morning from 8am to noon golfing with my dad. Although I’m not the most skilled player, it was a great time to catch up with my dad and have so fun. Oh and the weather was perfect this weekend.

IMG_6085

After our golf round, my dad and I went to my favorite Japanese restaurant. I ordered my favorite meal “chirashi.” It’s a combination of rice and sashimi.

img_6087.jpg

After our hearty lunch, my dad and I went back home and we relaxed a bit (aka he and my mom took a nap while I did some blog work) and then in the evening we went out to a Thai restaurant with our family friends.

It was great to meet up with one of my first friends I made in the States. While we weren’t exactly close when we were young, I think as time goes by, that one common thread of that we knew each other and went to the same school when we were young, allow us to be much closer now and have such a fun time laughing and talking. We caught up on a lot of things and we promised we would catch up again once I came back home.

Sunday morning was another golf round. It was much quicker because I had church. Church is such a huge and integral part of my life. I was born and raised in a church, yes, but I dedicate all the successful and good things that happened in my life to God and His glory. My church friends are literally friends that I’ve known since 1st grade and while we’ve grown up and changed, it was so great to hang out with them again. We are quite diverse group – but somehow, our personalities match.

IMG_6090

After church, my two of my best friends and I headed to the mall to watch Beauty and the Beast. Oh my goodness. My two friends and I had such a hard time reserving movie tickets last night. The entire back section was taken and there was only the front section open. We were debating whether or not if we would not break our neck sitting in the last row in the front section. During that time, the entire last row in the front section got taken! So we acted fast and sat in the second to last row.

I’m always grateful to these two. These two always had my back when I had a hard time adjusting to boarding school, and these two know my health journey very well (they’ve seen my physical body and my mental state fluctuate back and forth). And of course, they respect my eating habits so much, they always offer to eat at my favorite salad place when we go to the mall. Aren’t they the best?

IMG_6091
Our salads from sweetgreen. Let me tell you, it’s one thing to sneak in food into the movies. It’s another to try to eat it in the dark. 

We even snuck our salads into the theater because we were crammed for time. I love these guys so so much.

After the movie, we hung around in the mall shopping and then we parted ways. It was so sad having to say bye.

IMG_6076
Kimchi + tofu? Always makes for a great dinner 😉

After I got home, I had my last home-cooked dinner, and currently I am writing this blog post. After this blog post, I’ll take my last shower at home and soon after that, my last night at home.

IMG_6066
It’s going to be so long until I eat this salad at work. 😦

A lot of “last” today, but I’m trying not to be too sad because I know spring term will whiz by me and I’ll be on summer break hopefully soon.

How was your weekend?

xoxo,

Stephanie

NYC Current Favorites

NYC Current Favorites

New York City has so many amazing food destinations and every time I go, I always plan the trip around the food! Yeah, just being the foodie that I am 🙂

SO here are the destinations that I’ve recently visited and recommend!

1.) Bibble and Sip


You’ve probably seen pictures on Instagram of creamy matcha lattes and giant oozing cream puffs. This place is definitely definitely worth the hype.


I had a matcha cream puff, earl grey cream puff, and a bite of the brûlée egg tart. They cream puffs were so good that we had to take one home, along with a black sesame croissant. The matcha cream puff was my favorite! The cream had just the right amount of matcha flavor and it wasn’t too sweet. The outside puff part was crispy and match-y. And then there’s the price. At $3.50 a cream puff, the cost is insanely cheap, especially for a super popular NYC cafe. This is the place that I recommend everyone take a trip to! It’s right in between Time Square and Columbus Square, so it is very conveniently located if you want to visit all the major touristy areas.


Next time I come, I’m definitely ordering a Lavender Latte. I hear it’s amazing as well!

2.) Hangawi


Hangawi is a Korean restaurant that serves only vegetarian food, and I had been eyeing this restaurant for a while because of its outstanding reviews on Yelp and Zagat. So for my birthday recently, I finally got to try the food here with my friends and it was so yummy 🙂 And while the food is not completely authentic Korean, it still tastes super good. Even my friends completely adverse to vegetarian food enjoyed the dishes.


I had a tofu stone bowl rice with sesame leaves, which was savory and delicious. I loved the flavorful tofu scramble, over the hot bed of rice.

3.) Beyond Sushi

   This sushi joint serves vegan and vegetarian sushi, and I tried the spicy mango roll and the mighty mushroom roll. The mushroom was by far my favorite, and it could be just because of my obsession with mushrooms, but mushrooms in sushi?! Mmm it was delicious! I love meaty vegetables 🙂

4.) By Chloe

You’ve probably also heard of this vegetarian/vegan restaurant that serves amazing meatless burgers. (You probably notice by now that I love going to vegetarian/vegan eateries)

This place is great. And really aesthetically pleasing-I went to the one near Flatiron.

First of all, the fridge is IDEAL. There’s chia puddings, fruit, plenty of kombucha, juice, and other goodies.

Then the actual food. I ordered a classic burger and it was so savory and tasted so much more satisfying than a regular veggie burger! The patty- a TEMPEH-LENTIL-CHIA-WALNUT PATTY- tasted so much like meat it was amazing 😍definitely looking forward to going again soon!!

Yes that’s the same picture from our Instagram 🙂

Now that I’ve shared my current NYC favorites, what are your’s? Recommendations in the comments will be much appreciated 🙂

Love,

Serena

“Make your own” California Roll Recipe

“Make your own” California Roll Recipe

Writing this post currently back at school brings back such sweet memories. This was my last dinner(s) before I left for school last Saturday.  And I say dinners with a “s” because the last three nights I ate this and EACH TIME GOT EXCITED FOR IT.

For me, healthy eating is always delicious, always filling, always colorful, and of course, always nutrient dense. And this recipe is all of those. It’s actually fairly simple, but the prep work does take some time. However, if you do it in a big batch one day, then you can go off of that batch for a couple of days like my family did!

For those lovers of sushi, avocado, smoked salmon, or meals where you mix things in (like burritos, bibimbap), this recipe is JUST for you.

“Make your own” California Roll Recipe (serves 3 HUGE appetites)

Ingredients:

    • Rice (brown rice preferred!)
    • Nori (the large seaweed sheets WITHOUT any oil or salt)
    • Avocados (I believe we used about four – but the number is completely up to you!)
    • Smoked Salmon (My family personally loves the Duck Trap brand in the huge size that is sold at Whole Foods!)
    • Carrots
    • Cucumbers
    • Eggs (as many as you want, but I believe we used 8 eggs to make a huge “omelette” and we still had leftovers after having it for 3 dinners)

 

  • Optional:

 

    • Burdock (We Koreans have a side dish made out of this. It’s really good, but it’s definitely not necessary for this recipe.)
    • Dan Moo Ji (picked daikon radish – another Korean that is completely optional, just adds a little kick like a pickle)

 

Directions:

  • Wash your avocado, cucumber (and dan moo ji) and cut them into thin slices
  • Lightly saute your carrot with some olive oil and after done and cooled, cut them in thin slices
  • Make an “omelette” by only adding eggs into the pan and after done and cooled, cut them in thin slices

 

The finished product for these three directions should like this

File_002.jpeg

  • Have your stove on a low setting and lightly toast your nori to make them more stiff but not super crunchy like a chip.
  • Afterwards, cut your nori sheets up into small pieces
File_001.jpeg
This is one of our three dinners. Do you see how small the nori sheets are?

 

Now onto the fun part!

  • Lay one of the small nori piece on your plate
  • Add your rice as a base layer and add all the ingredients in

File_000 (1).jpeg

 

Enjoy!

 

What do you like in your sushi rolls?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

 

Lately Obsessed #2

Lately Obsessed #2

This week has been a bit more low-key but nevertheless crazy week. I’m heading back to boarding school next Saturday so our family is in get ready mode (read: creating lists of what we need to buy, but not really going out and getting those things … does anybody else do that?).

The weather’s been also a lot nicer here in D.C. – my morning runs have significantly become a lot more tolerable.

Anyway, this is what I’ve been obsessed with this week (check out last week’s if you haven’t already!):

 

ONE// Lunch dates with my family

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Summer roll @ Sushi Taro

Being that I’m leaving for school in a week, I’ve been trying to relish and take advantage of every opportunity I can in spending time with my family. While during middle school, I wanted to get out of the house and spend minimal time hearing their nagging and nitpicking, after being 300 miles away from them, I just miss everything about my family – even their nitpicking and anger tantrums.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Quinoa + mushroom salad and penne bolognese @ Nordstrom Cafe

Therefore, I went to Nordstrom Cafe with my mom the other day because it’s one of our favorite places (super convenient when we’re shopping and need of a pick-me-up). My mom went to the Cafe a few days before with her friends and said she tried a new salad in the Chef’s Special menu and that I NEEDED to try it out. So we did and boy, was it amazing. The mushrooms in the salad are crispy (almost like a kale chip) but has that salty kick of the mushroom … LOVE. We also ordered our perennial favorite the penne bolognese.

 

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Salmon & Avocado roll and Chirashi @ Sushi Taro

And just yesterday, my whole family went to our (or really my) favorite sushi place in DC called Sushi Taro. It was DC Restaurant Week so instead of getting my regular Chirashi order, I ate the lunch special. My mom ordered the lunch special as well, while my dad, another creature of habit (I guess like father, like daughter) ordered Chirashi. Let me tell you, my stomach was on cloud nine that day.

 

TWO// Indulgences (without feeling guilty)

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

While my past “health nut” self would gasp and shudder at the sight of my eating “naughty” things, these days, I’ve loosened the grip up when I realized I needed to nourish not only my body but my emotions which includes giving into some indulgences once in awhile.

I’ve had this week: a slice of pizza, a cracker/biscuit sort of thing (pictured above), mochi ice cream, and went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. May not seem much, but for a rigid health nut like me, it is.

 

THREE// Workout Playlist

While the weather has been cooperating and I did mention last week that I’ve been loving my morning runs, I have to say, I don’t think I could have done it without my workout playlist.

Now, my taste in a music is mediocre so please don’t judge, however, for me, I am OBSESSED with it (and that’s what counts right?). The only motivation I have when my alarm rings at 6:20 is to listen to my jams.

 

FOUR// Healthy lunches on-the-go

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Salad w/ balsamic glaze on the side after volunteering at hospital

This summer has been pretty busy with volunteering, math tutors, viola lessons, golf lessons and practices, running and also catching up with friends from back home. So sometimes, I have to eat my lunches or even dinners in the car.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Salad and noodles and watermelon (dinner) whilst going to golf practice

While this may mean doing “to-go” at fast food restaurants for some, for me, my super super sweet mom packs them for me. They’re exactly what I would eat at home, except all in my mom’s neat Tupperwares. And these are all easy enough to make that I don’t necessarily need my mom to make them, but being at home from school I do take advantage of having my mom around.

 

How was this week for y’all?

 

xoxo,

Stephanie