Spreading The Zero Waste Word

 

07.04.2016

0800

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As the Zero Waste movement as started to gain momentum in the past few years, it’s important for those who currently practice living a zero waste lifestyle to continue to spread the zero waste word. I’ve been approached a few times in grocery stores and in my work place of how and why I transfer food in cloth bags and Ball Mason jars. I usually take this time to simply explain the zero waste movement, not in-depth but a simple explanation; “To eliminate my trash output into the environment”. In the beginning of my journey, I noticed that I received awkward stares from strangers at grocery stores and very few people asked why I carried around cloth bags. I noticed confused looks as I would fill up my bags or jars at the grocery store though, I tink they might have thought I was stealing the bulk foods as I filled up my bags. The cashiers noticed but they had to by the time it was my turn to pay for my items. A few people have told me that they wanted to start “going zero waste” but it seemed overwhelming and they didn’t know where to begin. That made perfect sense since I felt the same way when I first started. For that reason, I carry around extra produce bags that I’ve sewn to give out to people who want to get started. I’ve already recorded the tare weights on them, so it’s a matter of the customer filling up the bag and relaying the PLU number to the cashier. I made it a point to sew extra bags to give away because I want those who want to start this lifestyle to be able to physically hold an example of how to get started. Granted, anyone could look up on YouTube or Pintrest of how to sew cloth bags, but this is my way of encouraging people with a some small starter cloth produce bags.

Also, when you lead by example, you might be surprised who will follow suite. Sometimes speaking about the zero waste movement won’t fit every environment. There will be environments which everything that is wasted will not be salvaged and easing thi=ose in that environment into the zero waste movement will take time. It takes a lot of effort to start living a zero waste life because there are sacrifices that each person must make and not all will be onboard. For instance my work place uses quite a bit of paper and they don’t compost. I would be great if we could start to compost, but that proposal also involves our building landlord to agree to it and so far he won’t. One of the smaller steps I have taken at work is introducing my Office Manager to the Grounds To Grow On Program by Keurig.

It’s still very important that we continue to talk about this issue due to the fact that we continue to produce and use plastic trash which is doing more damage to the environment than we can recover.

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Lead By Example

05.18.2016

0800

So I got a new job recently and there was a lot of new people to get to know and a new environment to get used to. I also had a new routine to make a part of my day-to-day life. With my new job, my day gets started pretty early which also means that I don’t make my morning coffee at home like I used to. I usually make my morning coffee in my French Press. At my job the company has a Keurig machine, and my co-workers love using it. I love my morning coffee and I like getting my started with a warm drink.

However, I disliked using the Keurig machine due to the painful reputation that Keurig cup pods go straight to the landfill. Instead of giving up coffee and leaving out a part of my day that I love to experience, I had to find an answer to the Keurig cup pod dilemma. I started researching on different ways to recycle these pods and I came across two different comapnies. The first company is TerraCycle and they have a Coffee Capsules Zero Waste Box where you can pay a small fee for the box and then print out a packaging slip to send back to TerraCycle when the box is full. The other company I found is called Grounds To Grow On which is a part of the Keurig company. For a small fee, they will drop off a Grounds To Grow On box and pick up when the box is full. This program offers two different sized boxes, so one can sit on the kitchen counter or sit on the floor. I prefered using the Grounds To Grow On program due to the benefit of the free delivery and pick up advantage.

I didn’t know how my co-workers would feel about the program because it wasn’t free. We would be paying for Keurig to haul away our used pods AFTER they already bought the machine and still continue to buy the pods. So essentially, they would pay for more trash to be hauled away. I spent a week to get to know my co-workers and the culture at my new job. During that time, I continued to collect the Keurig cup pods on my own knowing full well that the company may not want to join the recycling program. I knew that even if they didn’t want to join, I would join and recycle the pods myself.

A few of my co-workers did see me bring pods back to my desk, but I always just smiled and kept walking, I honestly don’t know what they thought I was doing. Maybe they just thought the new kid on the block was just strange and liked to collect trash. At the end of the first week, I finally brought it up to the office manager and she researched the program. I found out that a lot of my co-workers were on board with the program and saw my cardboard box of Keurig pods that I had been collecting. They were all very supportive of the program and I was relieved to hear it. There is now a new location to toss the used pods into, and I couldn’t be happier.

Living a zero waste life isn’t an easy lifestyle for everyone to adapt to. It takes time, energy, and sacrifice to even start it. Not everything we eat is organic, not everything we own is toxic free and even everyday routines and possessions are used for the most part, out of convenience. The speed at which we tend to run our lives moves so fast, that it’s sometimes hard to take time out to adjust your day-to-day routine, but if you tackle one task a day, it eventually becomes a smooth and less stressful ride through life. For me, this  issue with the Keurig cup pods was a task I wanted to tackle. The other alternative answer to this problem is to not use the machine at all, not order pods anymore, but who am I to demand that everyone in the office give up their expensive machine? With this Grounds To Grow On program, perhaps it will spark a conversation to convert the office into a zero waste office.

So lead by example. Lead by example knowing that you might be standing alone. I signed up for the program, knowing full well that the office may not want to join it. I was prepared to be known as the Keurig Cup pod collector of the office and I would pay for the program on my own, but is that a very big sacrifice? In the overall scheme of the Keurig cup pod crisis, paying a small fee to have this specific trash hauled away , doesn’t seem that bad. At least with every sip of coffee I made from that machine, I know I was trying to do my part in the larger Keurig cup pod pollution.

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My Mom

 

05.12.2016

0800

So this is blog post is going to be slightly different from my normal posts. In this post, I want to take some time to celebrate my mom.

My mom is a versatile woman, a woman of many strengths and many stories. She grew up in the in the 50’s and lived through the Vietnam War. By the time she had reached the young age of 23, she had established a well respected career as a flight attendant with Air Vietnam. During her young adult life, she also met my father (that story will be for another time). As a flight attendant, she got to travel around southeast asia and experience different cultures and met many people. She made her own money and enjoyed life tremendously.

I do give credit to my parents for being role models who always told me to grow up to make money. They never told me to grow up, get married and have kids. Perhaps they worried about my financial security, perhaps they simply didn’t want me to live paycheck to paycheck, but regardless, I did just that.

After my parents split, it was her strength that guided and paved the path of the following  years. She managed to balance being a single mom, staying sane and still taking care of two kids. I admire her strength and I hope that when I reach her age, I will still be as strong as her. To this day, when we sit and talk, I still enjoy hearing the stories of her childhood. As an adult, my relationship with her has become even closer and for that, I will forever be thankful. She has blessed me with my life and I’m so grateful that I get to spend one more day with her.

As children, we understand our parents are our leaders and rule makers. In adolescence, we test those rules to see where the boundaries lie. And as tenagers, we’re trying to figure out where we stand among the population of adults and our peers, yet we still test the boundaries between being deemed a child or an adult. As young adults, we’re still trying to get to that comfortable place to call ourselves an “official adult”, but we still seek guidance from our parents. Now as official adults, we can see the flaws in our decisions- and also theirs. Lastly, as adults, we can look at our parents as friends and maybe even peers. We can sit down and have a cordial conversation, with the understanding that where we sit now, is how our own children will view us as their leaders and their rule makers.

For a relationship between a parent and child to come full circle, is quite special to watch and be a part of. I value those conversations with my mom over dinner or in a phone call, because I know she still has many more stories to tell me, and I hope to hear each one of them.

SO HERE’S TO YOU MOM- HAPPY BIRTHDAY! May all your wishes come true, and know that when you look back on your life- you’ve accomplished so much and lived through so much more. I’m proud to call you my mom, and also my friend.

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End of the Vietnam War

 

04.30.2016

0800

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Horst Faas/Associated Press. A farmer helplessly held the body of his dead child as South Vietnamese troops looked on. March 19, 1964. The child had been killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. Lens Blog, New York Times

Vietnam War November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975 (19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks, 1 day)

There’s so much history involved with this was that it’s too much to write about in one blog post. My family is from South Vietnam and my father was drafted into the South Vietnam Army. He was also held captive for 3 years by the Viet Cong after the Fall of Saigon. He escaped and was deemed a POW. He doesn’t speak much of his experience either, I think most POWs don’t. It was a rough time in history, for everyone. There were protests in the United States, families were torn apart, and refugees fled seeking asylum in the US. There was so much chaos and pain- it’s unimaginable.

It wasn’t until the age of 14 when my mom started revealing to me the details of our family members, including her escape from the Viet Cong.  She told me “You would run until your feet would bleed. You can see bodies dropping around you as the Viet Cong shot the refugees trying to escape. They didn’t care. You ran because your life depended on it and you hoped the next bullet wouldn’t hit you. Each time you ran from them, you would lose track of your loved ones because running in a group just means you’re a larger target. You had to disperse, to create the illusion of smaller moving targets. Dispersing meant you would be alone, but you could save your life as well as the others.” She attempted to escape 4 times because during the first 3 times, someone had informed the Viet Cong and the location to meet up was compromised.

I have an aunt, who always stood out in my mind. She was so sweet and doted on the kids when we would visit. She made you feel like you were the #1 kid in the whole wide world. During this conversation, I asked my mom why she never had kids, she was loving and kind and seemed to have so much love to give. My mom revealed to me that she once had two young boys and a husband when she was on the boat that was headed to the US. On the boat, the men were on the top deck and the women and children stayed on the bottom deck. The boat had approached a Korean oil tanker and the captain asked if they could board the tanker. It didn’t make any sense that he wanted the passengers to board the tanker because the refuges were not allowed into Korea, they were not granted sanction in Korea. For whatever reason, the captain made his decision. Unfortunately, as the boat got closer to the oil tanker, the wave that it had created while cutting through the ocean water, rocked the boat and shook it. The wave was strong enough that people were thrown overboard and injuries were sustained on the top and bottom decks. At the exact same time, my aunt was climbing the access ladder, with one of her boys in her arms, the other was ahead of her on the ladder. They were trying to get to the top level to be with her husband so they could be ready to board the oil tanker.

When the wave had hit the boat, she was knocked off of the ladder and so were her boys. When she woke up, she was on the lower level of the boat again, lying next to other victims who were recovering from injuries attained during the shake up. Another refugee informed her that they were rolling the deceased bodies into the ocean. They couldn’t carry the dead across the Pacific Ocean because they would rot horribly and the damage they sustained from the wave was already an issue. She informed my aunt, that my aunt had been placed with the dead bodies, because they thought she had died, but after another check, they realized she was breathing- so they brought her downstairs to recover. When my aunt got to the top level, she saw that her husband and her two sons were among those who were deceased. When the time came for her husband and sons to be rolled into the ocean, she helped roll them off of the boat. And that was it, they were gone.

When she arrived in the US, she was alone, and didn’t know any English. Inevitably, she was placed in a psychiatric facility for some time. So many had passed during that event, I’m not sure she ever recovered from the incident. I don’t know if she had time to mourn the loss of her family, or time to heal from the emotional scars, but I do know that she felt lost and alone in a strange land. She eventually met my uncle whom is now her current husband and they’ve been married ever since- but behind her smiles, she was never the same again.

The reason why I tell this story, is that there are so, so many stories such as that one, which have never been told. As first generation American, I have no idea what it took for my relatives to come here. Guerrilla warfare is hand to hand combat and  if you couldn’t stand your ground- you would easily be killed by the hands of the other. I look at my relatives now, and I wonder what stories they have not told. I wonder what life was like, the fear they felt as they watched their country collapsing, their homes being destroyed and the future filling up with unknown endings.

I have a deep respect for life and people. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a past. Please ask, learn and spread that knowledge. Every single one of us has a story, perhaps not about war, maybe trauma, maybe a moment that changed our lives- but every single person has a story. I always knew war was bad, and it took 14 years to finally hear the details of how bad it was through my  mom’s eyes. Some stories are so painful they they can’t be repeated, but for the stories that can, I hope each person takes something away from it.

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South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places on June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim’s cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division. (AP Photo/Nick Ut) CNN, 25 of The Most Iconic Photographs

Know Your Knots

02.22.2016

0845

Materials:

  • Rope

Tools:

  • Pole to test out knots on

As someone who loves to keep extra rope and twine around, it makes sense that I made it a point to learn how to tie knots. But in addition to that, is that I actually carry a 100 foot parachord (Parachute cord) in my snowboarding backpack when I go up to the mountains. If you understand how to tie certain knots in certain situations, that knowledge can help you survive a situation, or help you while working over heights or water. Just knowing how to tie a few knots can still help you in many situations. Here are some knots that might be helpful:

  1. Reef Knot- This knot is a binding knot for connecting two lines together or a line around an object. It’s simple and effective and it is also known as a square knot.
    1. 01- Square Knot
  2. Clove Hitch- This knot can secure a line to a tree or post quickly, but it needs an anchor or it will slip.
    1. 02- Clove Hitch
  3. Bowline- This knot can create a nonadjustable loop at the end of the line, so the shape stays fixed.
    1. 03- Bowline
  4. Figure 8- This knot creates a stopping knot at the end of a line. This prevents the rope from unraveling and can also keep the rope from slipping past another rope.
    1. 04- Figure 8
  5. Sheet Bend- This technique can tie two different types of rope material together. This knot allows the joining of different thicknesses of rope as well.
    1. 05- Sheet Bend
  6. Two Half Hitches- This knot allows a line to be secured to trees or poles
    1. 06- Two Half Hitches
  7. Taut Line Hitch- This is an adjustable loop knot that will grip as long as there is tension on the “taut” side of the loop. Tension is maintained by sliding the hitch to adjust size of the loop. It can be used to secure tent lines or securing loads on vehicles.
    1. 07- Taut Line Hitch
  8. Improved Clinch Knot- This knot is used to secure a fishing line to a fishing lure or an artificial fly.
    1. 08- Fisherman's Knot
  9. Water Knot- This knot secures webbing, belts and straps together
    1. 09- Water Knot
  10. Rolling Hitch- A rolling hitch is used to attach a rope to a rod, pole or another rope.  It is used for lengthwise pull along an object rather than at right angles. The rolling hitch is designed to resist lengthwise movement for only a single direction of pull.
    1. 10- Rolling Hitch
  11. Prusik Knot- This knot is a friction hitch and it is used to put a loop of cord around a rope. It is used in climbing, mountaineering and rope rescue.
    1. 11- Prusik Knot
  12. Timber Hitch- This hitch will secure a rope around a cylindrical object. It is secure as long as tension is maintained but can be easily untied even after hauling a heavy load of weight.
    1. 12- Timber Hitch
  13. Blood Knot- This knot is used in fishing to secure two lines together. It will join sections of nylon line, while maintaining a high portion of the line’s inherent strength.
    1. 13- Blood Knot
  14. Artillery Loop- This knot creates a loop on the bight (the slack part between two ends of a rope). As long as the artillery loop is loaded, it will not slip and contract.
    1. 14- Man Harness
  15.  Carrick Bend- This knot is used to join two lines together. It can be used for heavy rope or cable that is too stiff to bend into other hitches.
    1. 15- Carrick Bend

If you keep in mind a few of these knots, they may very well help you in dire situations. It is a simple skill to know these knots by heart, but it can be one of the most useful as well. I always use ropes for a number of projects and situations and I have learned that the physics that go into tying a knot is so self sustainable, that I don’t have to worry about much else.

Tết 2016- The Set Up and Food

02.08.2016

0800

So I just wanted to share the set up that my family uses for Tết. We use the alter, entryway dresser and dining table as our platforms. The alter is for Buddha (bàn thờ Phật), the entryway dresser is used for the Saint of the Property (Đức Đai) and the dining table is used for my ancestors (ông, bà).

Before the Tết ceremony begins: (Day 1)

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During the Tết ceremony: (Day 1)

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On the alter sits a bowl of dry rice in which we have placed many incense sticks (cây nhang) over the years during each Tết celebration. On the entryway table is the set up for the Saint of the Property (Đức Đai), which includes a small bowl of dry rice for the incense sticks, water glasses, a variety of foods such as soup (Canh), Vietnamese braised pork with eggs (thịt kho), Vegetarian stir fry egg noodles (mì xào chay), shrimp salad (gỏi tôm), and fresh fruit. On the dining table, there is a small bowl of dry rice for the incense sticks, three bowls of rice for my ancestors (one for my dad’s side, one for my mom’s side and the third is for all other ancestors), water glasses, candles and the same variety of foods as on the entryway table but in addition, there are also Vietnamese mung bean dumplings (bánh ít trần).

Tradition goes that when ceremony starts, each person always prays and greets Buddha first with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy) at the alter, then we move over to the entryway table and ask the Saint of the Property, permission (xin phép) to invite our ancestors to come and celebrate Tết with us with 2 bows (hai xá) and 2 prayers (hai lạy). Then at the dining table, we invite our ancestors to come and celebrate with us with 2 bows (hai xá) and 2 prayers (hai lạy). After each request, we each place one incense (cây nhang) into the designated dry rice bowl. At the end of the first round of bows, each person will visit each table again to ask permission to leave the ceremony, but using the same amount of bows and prayers per table that was used in the first round. This second round of bows and prayers will release the person to go on with their day as they please.

After the Tết ceremony: (Day 1)

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The bows, prayers and the placing of the incense sticks are repeated each morning for three days (ba ngày Tết), during the three day celebration. At the end of the three day celebration, there will be another feast that will be the same set up on each table and on the alter in which we bid farewell (tiễn đưa) to our ancestors.

In the late evening (close to midnight): (Day 1)

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In the late evening, we celebrate the New Years Eve (Cúng giao thừa) by lighting the alter candles and  welcoming the new year. This ceremony includes three separate steps by the owner of the home. The first prayer (lạy Phật) takes place at the alter to Buddha with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy). Then the owner will step outside on the front porch of the home and prays to Heaven and Earth (cúng trời đất) with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy) The owner will then come inside to the alter and will pray to the lord of Heaven and Earth (lạy trời đất) with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy). The owner of the home will then place three incense into the rice bowl at the alter after these last three bows are completed. This last set of bows will end the ceremony of welcoming the new year.

 This is an overview of what the set up is for my family for this year. There are traditional baked goods missing from this set up such as Bánh chưng (Vietnamese rice cake which is made from glutinous rice, mung beans, pork and other ingredients) and  Bánh tét (savoury but sometimes sweetened cake, made from mung bean or mung bean and pork filling), as well as tea in addition to the water glasses. Each family has their own variation of what foods they cook or how they set up their ceremonies, this is just my family’s set up for this year.

So,  Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! (Happy New Year) I wish you all a healthy and happy new year with plenty of wealth and triumphs throughout the year 🙂

Recipe – (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs)

Thit kho with hard-boiled eggs (Vietnamese braised pork) - great with rice and popular on Lunar New Years!

This thịt kho recipe is a low and slow braise so the meat is going to be reeeeally tender. In this recipe we’re going to use pork belly because the fat on the meat tastes awesome! If you can get pork belly with the bones, you’ll have even better results. My ideal ratio of pork for this dish is actually 1/2 pork belly and 1/2 of a leaner cut like shoulder.

Hard-boiled eggs for thit kho - boil and peel them first!

Near me in Southern California’s Little Saigon, I hear you can get a higher quality of pork belly at Quang Minh Mini Market. It costs more for the belly, but there seems to be a consensus that its worth the cost–something I need to check out soon!

Here are the brands I use for the seasoning: Rico coconut soda, Kikkoman soy sauce, and Three Crabs Brand fish sauce. The thick soy sauce brand is Koon Chun, to be used in a pinch.

thit kho seasoning

As a kid I enjoyed mashing the yolk with the rice and spooning sauce over it–it’s fun! This dish is commonly eaten with a side of dua chua (pickled mustard greens) which provides a fresh and crunchy balance.

Chopped yellow onions for thit kho, to add another layer of flavorNotes:
I have tried adding slices of yellow onion too and it adds a nice layer of flavor to this dish. You can remove the onion at the end of the braise if you prefer since it will have given up all its flavor to the broth. For the seasoning in this thịt kho recipe: tinker with the soy sauce, fish sauce, and salt after the liquid has finished reducing, to taste.

Thit kho with hard-boiled eggs and pickled mustard greens

5.0 from 2 reviews
Thịt Kho – Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs
Prep time
10 mins
Cook time
2 hours
Total time
2 hours 10 mins
Author: Hungry Huy
Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds of pork belly, cut into 1.5″ cubes
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs
  • 6 ounces coconut soda (I use Rico brand)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or replace this with fish sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into large pieces (6-8 will be fine)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar for the caramel color (nuoc mau). This is to deepen the color of the dish. Depending on how dark your caramel sauce gets, you may not need to use all of it. In a pinch, you can use about ⅕ teaspoon of thick soy sauce instead, but the caramel sauce will tastes better.
Instructions
  1. Cut the pork into smaller pieces. I like 1.5″ cubes so it cooks slightly faster.
  2. Bring 2-3 quarts of water boiling on high, or enough to fully submerge the pork.When the water’s boiling, add the pork for 1-2 minutes just to clean it. Drain then rinse the pork under running water until the water is clear.
  3. Add the coconut soda, soy sauce, fish sauce and salt to the pot.
  4. Fill up the pot until the water just covers the pork. Turn the heat to high.
  5. When it hits a boil, drop the heat until you still see a slight boil, maybe about about 25% heat and let it simmer uncovered for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Check and stir the pot every 20 minutes. The longer you cook it, the softer the pork gets. Leaving it slightly uncovered lets the liquid reduce so you get a nice concentrated sauce later.
  6. Make the caramel color and add it to the pot.
  7. Make the hard-boiled eggs: add to a pot and cover the eggs with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Remove from heat and let it sit for 8 minutes. Cool in water then peel. Add the hard boiled eggs to the pot of pork in the last ~30-40 minutes of cooking.
  8. When there are about 30 minutes left on the timer, add the eggs. Eventually we want the liquid to reduce to about ⅓ or ¼ of the original.
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Comments

  1. SK says:

    Good job :) A good food in Tet’s Days at Vietnam, however, eating it in normal days is ok ! ^^

    • Huy says:

      Year round is definitely okay with me too :)

  2. Huy Vu says:

    Thanks! Just wish I had some Dua Cai Chua to go with this. =]

  3. daisy says:

    its so hard to find vietnamese recipes i understand and use online. more more more.

  4. Huy Vu says:

    =] sure thing.

  5. Jessica says:

    This reminds me of a Korean side dish called “Jang Joh Rim.” I wonder if they taste similar!

    • Huy says:

      Yeah it seems a lot of Asians share a similar variation of this dish!

  6. jason says:

    Huy, do i cover the pot with a lid? or leave it open?

    • Huy says:

      You only need to cover it slightly at the start so the liquid can reduce. Towards the end you can probably remove the lid entirely–adjust as needed.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Really great recipe, the step by step pictures are really appreciated. Thank you for sharing, and keep them coming!

  8. Jen says:

    Similar to adobo in the philippines:) ill try this recipe..

  9. Shay says:

    A friend made this as a comfort meal for me once and I loved it!
    Now I can try making it for my family. Wondering if this needs to be simmered covered with a lid or left open to boil? Thanks

    • Huy says:

      Lid open mostly, to reduce. If the meat is still tough you can add water as needed and continue to boil uncovered until it reaches a sauce thickness you like.

  10. LT says:

    This is way better than the Filipinos’ adobo.

  11. Eric says:

    looks similar to adobo but taste way different to adobo trust me this dish is heaps tastier

  12. steve says:

    make sure you use good fish sauce, like the one pictured above.

  13. Linda says:

    I love the pictures and the steps are very similar to my notes from my mom’s cooking lesson to me. The only thing is I just cooked it today with the country style boneless ribs and I compared it to the pork belly meat. Somehow the rib meat was more tough. Is there a way to make it more tender? I cooked 2hrs as your recipe dictates.

    Also, many people asked & I wonder also, do you cook your pot covered or uncovered?

    • Huy says:

      I cook it uncovered so the liquid can reduce (evaporate) to an amount I like. If you see it reduces too much you can put the lid back on or add some water.

      As for toughness of the meat, different cuts will vary in amount of connective tissue. Just cook it longer if its still too tough. At first I was afraid to overcook it, but giving it more time has always resulted in tender results. Just check it every 15 minutes or so.

  14. Tracy Le says:

    Just tried your recipe. Turned out so awesome. Thanks!!! :)

  15. foodiegal says:

    Is that a typo? This doesn’t take 20 hours does it? If so, can we cook this in a crock pot?

    By the way, I’ve had this dish many times at parties and IT IS TO DIE FOR! I love that the ingredients are simple and so are the directions. Is there a substitute for the coconut soda, if I’m not able to find it? Thanks!

    • Huy says:

      I’m DYING, that’s hilarious!! Yeah I meant to say 2 hours–oops, that’s been updated and thanks!

      The best thing you can use is fresh coconut juice, coco soda 2nd, then 3rd is cola or lemon-lime soda. Hope that helps.

  16. TrinityTrinh says:

    Can you substitute chicken or beef? I do not eat Pork. I’m sure it won’t taste the same but thought I would ask

  17. Trinity trinh says:

    Have you or can you substitute chicken or beef. I have taken pork out of my diet.

    • Huy says:

      Hey Trinity, I personally haven’t tried it but I bet it would be pretty good too. I’ve had this with tofu instead of meat and really enjoy that version too!

  18. Amy says:

    Super easy recipe to follow, and ended up delicious! I used pork shoulder only because the local grocery store didn’t have any pork belly left, and the end product was still absolutely delicious! The meat was so tender and flavorful without being too salty. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • Huy says:

      Hey Amy glad to hear you liked it! Yeah you can really use any cut of pork you want and it still turns out pretty well :)

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Tết 2016- Lunar New Year

02.03.2016

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DSC_3535Tết is the most important celebration in the Vietnamese culture.

It is also, one of my favorite holidays, Christmas being the other. I love Christmas because it marks the end of the year and that the new year that’s about to come. A new year brings new beginnings, new experiences and new challenges.

Tết derives from a shortened form of Tết Nguyên Đán, which is Sino-Vietnamese and it means “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day” and it also marks the arrival of the spring season, based on the Vietnamese variation of the Chinese Lunar calendar. (The Chinese Lunar Calendar is four hours ahead of the Vietnamese Lunar Calendar.)

It is a time when families reunite and visit one another. Some may even go to temple and start letting go of their troubles from the last year. It is a time when customs such as visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year, ancestor worship, wishing New Year’s greetings, giving lucky money to children and elderly people and even opening a shop.

As a child, I really loved this holiday. It was the only time when certain special dishes, desserts, and snacks were made and consumed. I also loved receiving money because… who doesn’t love that. Heading south to meet up at my aunts house was a thrill. I knew I would get to see all of my cousins and her little Chihuahuas. Although, the house had to fit up to 6 families which included, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, the food and the room to be able to move around the food table. In total, there was always about 12 kids at these gatherings. It was still awesome, we would always gather in one room to play a board game and we’d somehow would get into arguments about it. The boys never wanted to loose and I (being 1 of the 3 girls there) never really cared. After the arguments, we would all go to the nearby park and play as we waited for to hear the jingle of the local ice cream truck.  Then we’d all bombard our parents for ice cream money. It was a great time, and by the end of the party, the cousins seemed to part ways as best friends. We always knew we’d have to wait another year to do it all over again, and it never felt fair.

Now that I’m older, and I’m on the giving end of the crisp red envelopes filled with money, I’m realizing now, that working during the year means that I have to save up for Christmas and Tết because NOW I’m realizing how much money my relatives forked out for each kid. I’m impressed that they did that for all 12 of us- EACH YEAR.

Truth be told, I don’t spend a lot of money, and the joy of receiving money and eating food as a kid is a wonderful memory that I still hold dear. Also, kids stop receiving money when they start working, so you’re really looking at forking out those red envelopes from ages 5-16- not too bad right? And now the time of the year has come again, to celebrate the new Lunar calendar and new beginnings.

Healthy Life

01.24.2016

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To live a healthy life means you must make healthy decisions, take healthy actions and utilizing those decisions each day. This means, leaving toxic relationships behind, accepting what you cannot change and what you can change, and really figuring out what makes you happy. There’s a lot of “noise” in this world that can get in the way of happiness. Sometimes it flies under the radar, from negative comments you may receive or negative friends or just being unhappy in the current state.

I like plans and lists. Yep, I’m THAT type. Whenever I need to create a better situation for myself- I break it out into a list. From the list of items I need to do, and the next steps of utilizing those actions, I usually find my way out of the situation. I also like to cross items off of my checklist, there’s a level of satisfaction that moment brings. My priorities and obligations come first on my lists, so I never stray away from those. There’s also a line between what I want verses what I need, and the time it takes for those items to come to fruition. For those who are impatient, we like/want that immediate  gratification, but that rarely happens. We hang our happiness level on that gratification as well- which can make us suspended in limbo for awhile, that uncomfortable limbo.

Be happy and comfortable with the unknown, it makes life easier to deal with. Life is an adventure. I am the type who is more comfortable to know what lies ahead, but in the past 6 years, I’ve accepted that knowledge of the future is best left unknown. I control what I can, and leave the rest up to time and destiny. Mentally, this puts me at ease. I can control how healthy I decide I want to be, who I want to interact with in my life and where I want my life to go. This life includes everything I do under my roof and outside in the existing world. My definition of a healthy life is just that.

Everyone’s’ definition of “Healthy life” will be different, and I think that’s great. Healthy is relative to a certain degree. As long as you are happy, nothing else else really matters- except your priorities. So limit the noise, accept what you can change and let go of what you cannot, take time to examine yourself and who you want to be in this life- and then just do it.

Clarity In Our Thoughts

01.22.2016

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DSC_3534Clarity in our thoughts and feelings can bring peace of mind.

Sometimes, getting through the grey areas in life are the most difficult struggles. It brings a level of uncertainty. With black and white situations, you know if you’re going to loose or win. The grey areas create indecisiveness. But if you take a moment, take a deep breath, and stop moving… sometimes you realize the situation was always black or white.

Don’t let the grey areas take over your emotions/health, keep you from attaining your goals, or bring you down. Make a decision, is it going to be black or white? If you really want it, you’ll always see white.

Goals For 2016

01.20.2016

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DSC_3541My goals for 2016 are… (let me get back to this)

I could sit here and write that I want to better myself in a specific way, but it would be meaningless. My life as it is right now… is pretty great. It’s weird to admit that at times because it sounds arrogant, but I have to admit that life is genuinely good and I’m happy. However, it also took years of analyzing and nit picking and changing routines to get to this point.

My first step in getting to my happy life was simplifying it, which meant trying to live a zero waste lifestyle. After that, the rest was laid out pretty easily. Running errands is easier, sleeping is easier, and waking up is easier. I don’t buy packaged foods anymore so I know I’m not putting certain chemicals into my body anymore. (I know that there is a chance that the bulk foods will also have chemicals, but not the same ones for sure.)

I tend to eat a lot of greens and I stopped eating meat five years ago. I just run around the bulk foods section, grab some vegetables and fruit and I’m done. Even buying soap, laundry detergent, lotion and my other bath and body care are a quick stop at the grocery store- and it’s just one store I go to too.

I think this year is a year of just pushing my blog to further investigate who I am and what I want to report/talk about. I’m a very private person so this is all very new to me. I started living a zero waste life almost 6 years ago and many people had asked me to document it or vlog it on my YouTube channel, only now am I comfortable enough to do so.

The word ‘goals’ sounds too standard. It sounds like you’re going to achieve the goal and then it’s over, it’s done, nada mas. So maybe they should just be changes, changes that will echo even after you reach a certain point. Changes that just become a part of you- they become you.

So my changes for 2016, is to push my blog, vlog more, continue to be healthy and happy but overall- continue to be a better version of ME. The ME version consists of being a sister, daughter, friend, designer, citizen… just BE BETTER.

What are your changes you plan to make this year?

Top 37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old

01.19.2016

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So I found this article of “Those Top 37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old”, (here’s the link Top 37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old) and I thought I would audit the list. I separated the items I haven’t done from the items that I have done.

Items that DO NOT apply to me : (because I’ve already done it or I’m currently taking care of the issue) 

2. Not learning another language
  • You’ll kick yourself when you realize you took three years of language in high school and remember none of it. ===> I speak 3
3. Staying in a bad relationship.
  • No one who ever gets out of a bad relationship looks back without wishing they made the move sooner. ===> Get out when the first red flag goes up 
4. Forgoing sunscreen.
  • Wrinkles, moles, and skin cancer can largely be avoided if you protect yourself. ===> Wear it everyday
5. Missing the chance to see your favorite musicians.
  • “Nah, dude, I’ll catch Nirvana next time they come through town.” ==> So far so good
8. Letting yourself be defined by gender roles.
  • Few things are as sad as an old person saying, “Well, it just wasn’t done back then.” ===> Grew up a tomboy but now I love being a woman
9. Not quitting a terrible job.
  • Look, you gotta pay the bills. But if you don’t make a plan to improve your situation, you might wake up one day having spent 40 years in hell. ===> Get out while you can- or you’ll hate yourself later
10. Not trying harder in school.
  • It’s not just that your grades play a role in determining where you end up in life. Eventually you’ll realize how neat it was to get to spend all day learning, and wish you’d paid more attention. ===> I’ve achieved my education goals I set out
11. Not realizing how beautiful you were.
  • Too many of us spend our youth unhappy with the way we look, but the reality is, that’s when we’re our most beautiful. ===> I think I’m alright
12. Being afraid to say “I love you.”
  • When you’re old, you won’t care if your love wasn’t returned — only that you made it known how you felt. ===> Yep I’ve said this too 
13. Not listening to your parents’ advice.
  • You don’t want to hear it when you’re young, but the infuriating truth is that most of what your parents say about life is true. ===> I still go to them for advice
14. Spending your youth self-absorbed.
  • You’ll be embarrassed about it, frankly. ===> I always saw myself as the “funny” friend
15. Caring too much about what other people think.
  • In 20 years you won’t give a darn about any of those people you once worried so much about. ===> Never cared much of what people thought
16. Supporting others’ dreams over your own.
  • Supporting others is a beautiful thing, but not when it means you never get to shine. ===> I think everyone deserves a fan
17. Not moving on fast enough.
  • Old people look back at the long periods spent picking themselves off the ground as nothing but wasted time. ===> My personality bodes to constantly be working on projects  
18. Holding grudges, especially with those you love.
  • What’s the point of re-living the anger over and over? ===> You just have to accept people as they are, or you don’t deal with them at all. 
19. Not standing up for yourself.
  • Old people don’t take sh*t from anyone. Neither should you. ===> I’m solid on this one
22. Missing the chance to ask your grandparents questions before they die.
  • Most of us realize too late what an awesome resource grandparents are. They can explain everything you’ll ever wonder about where you came from, but only if you ask them in time. ===> They died before I was born so this was defaulted
23. Working too much.
  • No one looks back from their deathbed and wishes they spent more time at the office, but they do wish they spent more time with family, friends, and hobbies. ===> I’m too young to say that
25. Not stopping enough to appreciate the moment.
  • Young people are constantly on the go, but stopping to take it all in now and again is a good thing. ===> Do this every morning when I have my coffee
26. Failing to finish what you start.
  • Failing to finish what you start.“I had big dreams of becoming a nurse. I even signed up for the classes, but then…” ===> I’ve finished everything I set out to do, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have more future projects in mind
27. Never mastering one awesome party trick.
  • You will go to hundreds, if not thousands, of parties in your life. Wouldn’t it be cool to be the life of them all? ===> I can make a shot disappear 
28. Letting yourself be defined by cultural expectations.
  • Letting yourself be defined by cultural expectations.Don’t let them tell you, “We don’t do that.” ===> I never have
29. Refusing to let friendships run their course.
  • People grow apart. Clinging to what was, instead of acknowledging that things have changed, can be a source of ongoing agitation and sadness. ===> People grow up, they change and evolve
31. Never taking a big risk (especially in love).
  • Knowing that you took a leap of faith at least once — even if you fell flat on your face — will be a great comfort when you’re old. ===> If you’ve had your heart broken, you can check this off
32. Not taking the time to develop contacts and network.
  • Networking may seem like a bunch of crap when you’re young, but later on it becomes clear that it’s how so many jobs are won. ===> I have a great network
33. Worrying too much.
  • As Tom Petty sang, “Most things I worry about never happen anyway.” ===> I let go of what I cannot control
34. Getting caught up in needless drama.
  • Who needs it? ===> I’m too old for this one, and it’s a waste of time
36. Never performing in front of others.
  • This isn’t a regret for everyone, but many elderly people wish they knew — just once — what it was like to stand in front of a crowd and show off their talents. ===> Performed in choir from 10 years old to 18 years old
37. Not being grateful sooner.
  • It can be hard to see in the beginning, but eventually it becomes clear that every moment on this earth — from the mundane to the amazing — is a gift that we’re all so incredibly lucky to share. ===> I thankful that I’m able to wake up each day

Here is the list of Items that I HAVEN’T DONE and that I AM regretting> and I plan to change :

1. Not traveling when you had the chance.
  • Traveling becomes infinitely harder the older you get, especially if you have a family and need to pay the way for three-plus people instead of just yourself. ===> Need to do this more
6. Being scared to do things.
  • Looking back you’ll think, What was I so afraid of? ===> Taking steps right now to do so
7. Failing to make physical fitness a priority.
  • Too many of us spend the physical peak of our lives on the couch. When you hit 40, 50, 60, and beyond, you’ll dream of what you could have done. ===> Doing this now
20. Not volunteering enough.
  • OK, so you probably won’t regret not volunteering Hunger Games style, but nearing the end of one’s life without having helped to make the world a better place is a great source of sadness for many. ===> Need to volunteer more with the organizations I support
21. Neglecting your teeth.
  • Neglecting your teeth.Brush. Floss. Get regular checkups. It will all seem so maddeningly easy when you have dentures. ===> Need to go to the dentist too
24. Not learning how to cook one awesome meal.
  • Knowing one drool-worthy meal will make all those dinner parties and celebrations that much more special. ===> I want to make more than a few awesome meals
30. Not playing with your kids enough.
  • When you’re old, you’ll realize your kid went from wanting to play with you to wanting you out of their room in the blink of an eye. ===> Don’t have any… yet
35. Not spending enough time with loved ones.
  • Not spending enough time with loved ones.Our time with our loved ones is finite. Make it count. ===> Time with family/friends can never be enough

So I left some answers as to what I plan to accomplish soon. They’re basic answers, nothing written in stone or planned out clearly. These items are nothing new to my TO DO list and I plan to do them. The underlined items will be done sooner than later. The rest of the items will be done eventually 😉 Ok, ttyl!

A Week Is 168 Hours

01.18.2016

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DSC_3539We have 168 hours in a week, so I decided to outline my hours during the day- here’s what I found: (SEE CHART BELOW) Interesting right? My assumptions for my work week was pretty accurate- I always feel like I never have time during the week but I have TOO much time during the weekend. Now it’s time to really use those hours to my advantage! It really is amazing what you see once you write it down on paper. I never realized that I had 4 hours of free time per day during my weekdays and 12.5 hours of free time during my weekends- it’s kinda nuts! although I know I have to crunch my time during my week, but then again… I can always use my down time during the week to have nice conversations with my mom or (eventually) hang out with my family and friends 🙂

MONDAY – FRIDAY
2130 = 8.00 Hr ==> Sleep
0530
—- = 1.00 Hr ==> FREE
0630 = 1.00 Hr ==> Run
0730 = 0.50 Hr ==> Breakfast
0800
—- = 0.75 Hr ==> FREE
0840 = 9.00 Hr ==> Work
1740
—- = 1.25 Hr ==> FREE
1900 = 1.00 Hr ==> Workout
2000 = 0.50 Hr ==> Dinner
2030
—- = 1.00 Hr ==> FREE
————————————————————————–
= 4.0 Hours ==> Free/24 Hour WEEKDAY DAY

SATURDAY – SUNDAY
2130 = 8.00 Hr ==> Sleep
0530
—- = 1.00 Hr ==> FREE
0630 = 1.00 Hr ==> Run
0730 = 0.50 Hr ==> Breakfast
0800
—- = 5.00 Hr ==> FREE
1300= 0.50 Hr ==> Lunch
1330
—- = 5.50 Hr ==> FREE
1900 = 1.00 Hr ==> Workout
2000 = 0.50 Hr ==> Dinner
2030
—- = 1.00 Hr ==> FREE
————————————————————————–
12.5 Hours ==> Free/24 Hour WEEKEND DAY

If you outlined your week, what would it look like? 

First Post

01.15.2016

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So this is my first post… I haven’t even finished setting up my website but I thought I’d write something anyway. It took a lot of contemplating to come to the conclusion of starting this blog but I think it will be a great investment. Today is Friday and I’m hoping to get a lot done before the week starts up again on Monday. Sometimes I hate being in that mindset because I feel like I’m just bum rushing through my weekend instead of enjoying it. Let’s see what happens in the next 48 hours… you never know 🙂