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Trying New Things, Noms Edition

I like having default things — default favorite color, favorite food, favorite book, favorite movie — and I don’t step far out of those boundaries. Moving from Illinois to California hasn’t shaken most of those, but it has changed my food boundaries.
For the most part, it’s been different Asian foods. Before I came here, I never knew of the existence of niangao, a Shanghainese, stir-fried rice cake dish. We use rice cake, or "dduk," a lot in Korean cuisine. There’s rice cake soup, or ddukgook, and spicy rice cakes, or ddukbokki. I was intrigued to see rice cakes, in the shape used in rice cake soup, in another cuisine. I’ve been wanting to try this for at least 1.5 terms, after hearing raving reviews from some upperclassmen. Two weeks ago, I was walking back from Teaspots with some people in my a cappella group, when a car stopped by (John from Avery, champion of niangao) and asked if we wanted to come get dumplings. I shrugged and joined, and was delighted to learn that the dumpling place (Juicy Dumpling in San Gabriel) also had niangao. It was delicious!

We also had xiao long bao and green beans, which were good.

I went way out of my food comfort zone this past week, when 6 of my fellow Rudd frosh and I went out with our house RA, Joe, and former Ruddock president, Allika, to have dinner and talk about how the term was going. Here we are, all convened and ready to go:

We drove to Daisy Mint, a nearby Thai restaurant, but found that it was packed, with a 30 minute wait. After reviewing our other options, we decided to go to Azeen’s Afghani Restaurant in Old Pasadena. I was wary of the unfamiliar cuisine, and the dish names I knew I was butchering, but it was very, very good. The meat-eating side of the table got chicken kebabs and a chicken mushroom tomato dish. Both were very good, with excellent seasoning. I also really liked the rice and bread. Chicken dish:

Meat-eating half of the table:

Vegetarian half of the table:

I ate till I was stuffed. Just recently, my roommate and I went out to have dinner with some Alley 3 members. We went to Shanghai Restaurant in San Gabriel. Most of the table had various dietary restrictions, so we ordered mapo tofu and niangao without meat. The meat dishes were probably the least tasty of the whole spread, and niangao was just as good vegetarian.

From niangao to Afghani food, it’s been a good term for trying new foods. Southern California has a much wider diversity of foods than back home, and I look forward to stepping further out of my food comfort zone during my time here.