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Saffron 59 Catering is New York City's premier caterer and event planner specializing in Southeast Asian cuisine. For over 11 years, Saffron 59 has successfully orchestrated memorable affairs with attention to every detail.


An Unexpected Hunt this Autumn

Irene Wong

Périgord truffle or French black truffle

Périgord truffle or French black truffle

Another ✅ is on my bucket list this Fall. I finally found someone to take me on a private hunt for truffles. My close friend, who happened to be in Paris for a few days, flew over to Budapest when she heard that I was going into this uncharted hunt in Hungary.

We had the most unexpected amazing experience one morning as we trekked up to the woods in Hungary. Professional truffle hunter Imre Lencses guided us through the process, along with his two trained truffle-hunting dogs, one-eyed Sailor and Aliz.

Aliz and Imre found another nugget of tartufo

Aliz and Imre found another nugget of tartufo

We pulled deeper and deeper into the dark forest of oak, elm and European walnut trees, driven by the earthy, woodsy aroma of truffles. The dogs unleashed their wild instincts and thorough sniffing all around the bush in excitement.

The truffle surfaced from the gritty, dark soil as the dogs started scraping the ground in maniac excitement. They would dig away until Imre arrived with his own digging tool, to eventually unearth a small, black, unimpressive golf-ball-sized nugget of fungus. Imre hurried into his pocket with a small bite of treats, rewarding the dogs for their effort.


In two hours, Imre collected over 2 kilograms of truffles, tucked carefully into a small leather pouch he wore by his side. These truffles are called tartufo nero, or Tuber melanosporum, also referred to as Black Diamonds.

Lunch was optional, but we couldn’t resist Imre’s offerings of a salad with truffles, a club sandwich with truffles, and more excitingly, a tiramisu dessert with the truffles adding more ‘umami.’ A small packet of shavings of this tartufo nero will bring awesomeness to any meal. We were grateful to enjoy our bountiful findings and back home, savored omelets we made with truffles and pasta with generous shavings.

I also learned from a few of our truffle aficionados that North American varieties don’t share the same intense aroma of their European cousins found in Italy, France, Spain or Hungary—but then again, they don’t cost thousands of dollars a pound.

One disturbing note I learned from Imre on this expedition is that inexperienced hunters from North America often use rakes to rip up the forest floor while searching. Not only can they damage the product, they also eventually destroy the local fauna. In Europe, every one of the hunters is registered locally and licensed to keep better control.

Stay tuned for next year, as we explore a different region of Hungary from June and the beginning of August. We will experience another episode of truffle hunting for the highly prized white truffles. You can find more pictures of our truffle hunt here.


Dishes for the Road Trips

Irene Wong

This summer I know that I will be taking a few road trips involving staycation that will include renting homes with a few of our close friends and staying in some secluded country sides which may have limited good food and restaurants in the area.

My mom (third from right) with her friends on their road trip.

My mom (third from right) with her friends on their road trip.

As finicky as us, I always prepare cooked food so that when we returned from a day of treacherous hike or a day out in a country there will be great food waiting for us.

This week, I made a curry dish that brought me back many fun memories as a child growing up in our country home in Myanmar, when we as my family take trips  with a car or on a train we cooked one of my favorite delicious and nutritious dish with fresh farm eggs. Fresh farm eggs, we had plenty of that around.  In the summer time, during our school break in hot monsoon season,my brothers and sister would be in our country home in Taungoo Myanmar. As soon the sun peaks early mornings , we can't wait to hunt for eggs in the chicken coop.

My dad and I on our day trip excursion in Taungoo, Myanmar.

My dad and I on our day trip excursion in Taungoo, Myanmar.

Packing Burmese Sibyan with Eggs before hitting on the road.

Packing Burmese Sibyan with Eggs before hitting on the road.

Hard boiled eggs, vine ripened tomatoes.

Hard boiled eggs, vine ripened tomatoes.

The great cookbook writer, Naomi Duguid's Golden Egg Curry had recently mentioned this dish as well as my great friend Andrea Nguyen wrote about it. With my version, I add tamarind pulp to give that tangy sour kick to the dish and it goes very well with a piece of toasted baguette or steamed rice. Recently I served with a side of freekeh salad.

Fresh Coriander sprigs from the garden.

Fresh Coriander sprigs from the garden.

Citrus During The Winter Blues

Irene Wong

If the current forecasts prevail, Florida will produce approximately 103 million boxes of oranges, and about 15 million boxes grapefruit. With this abundance of citrus fruits, why not take advantage of them, especially when they are at their peak! Given their vibrant color and refreshing zest, these substantial foods satisfy this craving, especially at this time of the year...

On my recent trip to Central America, while staying at an inn situated on an orange grove plantation and after a hike, we were served an assortment of smoothies and shakes made with mandarin oranges and tangerines. They were delicious, sweet and tangy with low acidity, but with a zesty touch of lemon added!

Whether cooked or preserved, these fruits can certainly be great comfort foods, whether served sweet or by adding ingredients to make a savory dish. After Thanksgiving season is over, the markets are literally giving away cranberries for nothing. When back home, my sweetheart made a few jars of cranberry grapefruit jam for his morning toast that will last throughout the winter. 

Neatly stacked, basket full of pomelos at the market in Yangon, Myanmar

Neatly stacked, basket full of pomelos at the market in Yangon, Myanmar

Pomelo looks like an oversized grapefruit. It originated in Southeast Asia and is said to be the larges of all citrus fruit. Pomelo are sweet, juicy and low in acidity. I enjoyed them at breakfast, but also a thirst quencher when I returned back from a day's outing They have a much thicker pith and skin, so they can last over a month if stored at room temperature. I love incorporating them with leftover roast chicken, shred the meat into thin slivers for a 'chicken salad with pomelo', add shaved green papaya and a squeeze lemon. 

During the Lunar New Year, there are an abundance of kumquats, as it is the symbol of fertility - means " golden orange" in Chinese. They 'easily pop into your mouth' as a whole, they're great candied, can be used to make marmalade and jellies, can be added to cocktails and are great with pairing with dishes like roast duck or turkey. 

One of signature chicken appetizers with lemon juice and pomelo.

One of signature chicken appetizers with lemon juice and pomelo.

I also enjoyed making mini olive oil cakes topped with candied kumquat, and as with blood oranges, thinly sliced carpaccio like fluke crudo with olive oil, lemon juice and blood orange and dash of pepper. It is an eye opener to serve as first course at a dinner party. As for the vegetarians with shaved thinly sliced fennel and roasted roughly chopped pistachios to give it extra texture.

Years ago, I remembered I was only able to get meyer lemons in Key West, Florida or in California. Now, through Amazon, my niece Stephanie ordered them and they arrived within 24 hours. She uses them in her own concoction for 'mojitos'. They taste like a cross between an orange and a lemon, they are milder, sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons.

Quinoa with lettuces and orange at Hey Hey Canteen, one of the recent restaurants I consulted.  

Quinoa with lettuces and orange at Hey Hey Canteen, one of the recent restaurants I consulted.  

My great friend Eugenia Bone has many recipes about preserving lemons from one of her books. Choose a recipe based on your favorite flavors and aromas! Turn them into marmalades or use them in flavorful tagines or a 'specialty mixed' cocktail drink. Each of these fruits has distinctive punchy citrus flavor and all are a rich source of fiber and vitamin C, both of which are best to protect our bodies from winter cold or fatigue. Choose ones that are firm and shiny and keep them at room temperature, or refrigerated. 

Having a full basket of citrus in your kitchen cheers up the room! They keep well for a week or more as your family consumes...Many types of citrus fruits, such as Cara Cara, Mandarin, Kumquats, Blood Orange and Grapefruit, are low in calories and charged with lots of minerals. Our kitchen uses them to amplify flavors, in diver scallops or wild salmon, or you can jazz up your fresh farmer's market greens paired with our signature braised short ribs.

Braised Pork Shoulder with Oranges

Serves 4 to 6

Pork loves oranges, and this dish showcases that well. It is sweet and unctuous. I like to serve this with rice, and the leftovers (if there are any) are wonderful next to a scrambled egg. The pork is marinated 12 hours but it is okay to do it for less time. 

3 pounds pork shoulder on the bone

1 tablespoon paprika (sweet, but hot, or a combination, is good, too)

1 tablespoon ancho powder

2 oranges, juiced

1 lemon, juiced

2 limes, juiced

1/2 cup white wine

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, smashed

3 sprigs parsley

1 3 - inch sprig rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Rub one side of the pork with the paprika and the other side with the ancho. Place in a large re-sealable food grade baggie.

Combine the orange, lemon, lime juice, the wine, olive oil, garlic, parsley, rosemary, and salt and pepper, in a small bowl. Pour the marinade into the bag and distribute around the meat. Refrigerate 12 hours (overnight is good), turning the bag over once or twice.

Gold Ingots to Red Envelopes for the Roosters

Irene Wong

As my family and I are preparing to welcome Chinese/Lunar New Year with a variety of symbolic dishes to start the New Year Eve feast, not only are we stuffing coins and good luck money into Red Envelopes, which are to be handed out to the children during the month Chinese New Year; we are also gathering the bright, fun, golden, decorations and visiting markets for some special ingredients for a few dinners that we're about to prepare in the coming weeks.

Roast Duck with glazed orange peels

Roast Duck with glazed orange peels

Each year, we try to come up with new ways to have a memorable gathering with family and friends while holding onto the traditions that we've already created together. It's a labor of love that we always have a great time planning-each year brings new fortune and symbolizes something unique, so each celebration is different.

Vegetable Dumplings made at my brother's home

Vegetable Dumplings made at my brother's home

With the addition of young children to my family, we face a new challenge: which ingredients and types of food will make our Jiaozi party even better than the last? We'll be making everything from vegetable dumplings with a mixture of bok choy, sesame oil, and black fungus to juicy minced pork dumplings with spicy pickled Shanghai radish that crunches when you bite into the hot, steaming pockets. Our shrimp dumplings with water chestnuts and spring onions are sure to provoke lots of laughter in the years to come, as "shrimp" is pronounced har in Chinese.

Steamed Har Gaw with Szechuan Peppercorn

Steamed Har Gaw with Szechuan Peppercorn

In most Chinese homes, dumplings (or jiaozi in Mandarin) are a traditional must-eat food on New Year's Eve; families wrap them up and eat them as the clock strikes midnight to celebrate the dawn of a new year in a delicious way. Dumplings are a common symbol of longevity and wealth - their shape even resembles ancient gold ingots, as well as other coins that are said to bring prosperity. Many dishes served at the celebration, from fresh fish to different types of noodles, are considered symbols of good fortune, harmony, and longevity during this festive month of the year.

This year, our family will celebrate the Year of the Rooster, which begins on Saturday, January 28th, and we're excited to welcome its characteristics of loyalty, hard work, and confidence. Since the Chinese New Year festivities usually last for two weeks or more, there's a lot to celebrate. We'll be spending our New Year with the people (and food!) we love, and we wish you and your family many joyful festivities and gatherings in the year to come.

PS: Red Envelopes are given to the children during the month Chinese New Year. The red color of the envelope stands for good luck and is a symbol to ward off evil spirits.

RECIPE VEGETABLE DIM SUM (translation: a bit of this, a bit of that)

2 cups of minced Asian chives or spinach, chopped
2 cups of minced carrots
1 cup water chestnuts or jicama, minced
3 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup dried shiitake and ear mushrooms, soaked and discard stems
1 cup julienned and diced brown tofu
2 T. sesame oil
1 T. minced garlic
2 T. ginger
3 T. soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1/8 cup vegetable oil
Approximately 2 packages of wonton wrappers

Chop all the ingredients finely.
Heat oil in a wok or frying pan. 
Add in garlic, ginger and onion and cook over a medium flame for about 2 minutes. Stir the cabbage til it wilts in the rest of the ingredients, except eggs. Continue stir frying until all the vegetables  are mixed well and add in the seasonings and adjust the taste accordingly.
Take a wonton wrapper in the palm of your hand and brush the egg mixture on the edge of the wrapper. Put a tablespoon of mixture in the center of the pastry. To enclose, gather the pastry shell by pinching. Put in an oiled steamer and cook for 10 minutes. 
These may be served at once or pan fry the bottom of the already steamed dim sum and wrap airtight the rest to freeze. Reheat frozen dim sum by steaming for 8 - 10 minutes.

Makes approximately 100 pieces.

*At Saffron59, we make variations of these dumplings using crab, shrimp, chicken or pork with seasonal vegetables. **After you cooked the stuffing of the dumplings it can go into food processor "chop" and let it drained overnight. If you use the Shanghai wrapper, the white ones it tastes better to sear the bottom and then add some water to the pan and cover it to cook the inside for 4 minutes at low heat. Or simply drop dumplings in boiling water till float.

Recipe: Braised Short Ribs with Harukei Turnips

Irene Wong

It's that time of the year again where we regularly rotate menus to fit the cold weather. As I customized menu according to availability from farmers, putting together best of winter flavors using produce to create delicious comforting hearty meals and the result is satisfying for you and your family.

For our friends who prefer vegetables on the table, there are too many exciting fresh and seasonal produces in nearest farmer's market. Kabocha squash, or known as Japanese pumpkin, is one of most popular in our kitchen every year, it has bright orange flesh, it is delicious when cooked with coconut milk, galangal and turmeric or you can simply dressed with olive oil and fresh sprigs of herbs. Here is my favorite recipe of the year below, it's enough for large crowd and freeze some containers for those snowy days.

Recipe: Braised Short Ribs with Kimchi Garnish


1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

6 tablespoons chopped garlic

2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

salt to taste

freshly ground pepper

6 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for serving

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

15 pounds English-cut beef short ribs (twelve 4-by-2-by-2 inch pieces)

1/4 canola oil

4 large onions, finely chopped

1 large daikon, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks

4 baking potatoes (3 pounds), peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks large chunks

2 cups (12 ounces) chopped napa cabbage kimchi - for garnish

2 T Szechuan peppercorn

1 bottle of red wine

 3 qt of meat stock or enough to cover the meat

serves 15 portions

In a bowl, whisk the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, pepper, scallions and sesame oil. Add some salt to the ribs, add the marinate, turn to coat and refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally.

Lift the short ribs from the marinade, brushing off the solids, and reserve the marinate separately. Sear over moderately high heat until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.

In a large sauce pan, heat the canola oil, add the onion till brown and add one cup of water to the pot and cook, stirring to release the browned bits on the bottom, 2 minutes.

Return the ribs and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add the reserved marinade, broth and 6 cups of water and meat stock bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat for 1 hour, skimming occasionally. Uncover and with low flame for 1 hour till the meat is tender, stirring and skimming occasionally.

Be festive and serve  your meal with a bit of fizz to celebrate the New Year!

Be festive and serve  your meal with a bit of fizz to celebrate the New Year!

Creative Mind for a Dream Wedding

Irene Wong

Pre-set dining room under the tent at  Wassaic Project, NY

Pre-set dining room under the tent at Wassaic Project, NY

Aside from presenting a memorable and most delightful dinner experience, another important element of wedding festivity is the space -- it depends on your scale of vision and desire to celebrate.

Non traditional indoor or outdoor venues, such as a raw art space, a turn-of-the-century townhouse, or a rustic barn, can be equally beneficial and challenging.

Transforming a large museum space into an intimate, small-scale wedding venue.

Transforming a large museum space into an intimate, small-scale wedding venue.

Turning a bare, open space into a dining or cocktail area with a feeling of intimacy and warmth surrounding  your loved ones is our favorite responsibility. It is all about careful, detailed planning for many months, including countless drawings and measurements during site visits. Often we encounter unforeseen circumstances, such as no running water or electricity and limited space at bare-bones venues such as 620 Loft & Garden. We may have to rent numerous stacking risers in order to create shelving for the hundreds of plates involved in a 9-courses Chinese banquet menu for 120 guests featuring dishes from Eight Treasures Soup and Trio Desserts.

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Reconfiguring seating charts for the third time.

Reconfiguring seating charts for the third time.

At Saffron59, we perform well-executed transformations of small or large spaces into a dream come true, whether it is a Marrakesh caravan theme or an opium lounge, we enjoy the challenge of making the impossible happen. Not only our team makes special menu for our younger guests but also we carefully accommodate guests with allergies from tree nuts to garlic free restrictions. After making lists and checking them countless times, we make sure to cover everything from the kitchen to the garden, from the cocktail space to the dressing area, from making sure the guests are served to overseeing rental equipment delivery on-site. Ultimately, our crew at Saffron59 always has fun, because love what we do!


Irene Wong

Recently, I had a conversation with an Uber driver on the way back to my studio about how fascinating simple spices can be, one of which is turmeric. I recalled in that conversation my first visit to the Island of Bali during my time living in Asia. It was there that I met a masseuse who made a hot turmeric-ginger tea for me, with turmeric and lemongrass out of her garden, right after a soothing massage.

This blog is inspired by a moment in time that reflects on the simple yet profound pleasures that come with turmeric. Turmeric is a spice that was widely known in Medieval times as "Indian Saffron" and was used as a replacement for saffron itself (saffron is expensive compared to turmeric).

In addition to its uniquely robust taste, Turmeric has many nurturing and pure anti-inflammatory properties. It's saffron-orange color comes from a plant compound called curcumin, which has properties that are protective for our immune system and reduce the risk of cancer. It comes in root form as well as capsules to take as a daily vitamin.

In previous blog I've mentioned how in Vietnam, where I've spent 4 years, turmeric plays an important role in their lives of those suffering from arthritis, since turmeric antioxidants reduce pain and inflammation and replenish nutrient loss. Since the beginning of fall, I integrate turmeric into several of my signature dishes. The dishes win high praise from our clients and include our Melange of Curried Root vegetables, Chilli Chicken and Roasted Cauliflower Florets.

It's one of popular drinks I have added at  HeyHey Canteen , recently opened in Brooklyn.

It's one of popular drinks I have added at HeyHey Canteen, recently opened in Brooklyn.

As warmer weather is approaching, cold turmeric ice tea with lemon verbena is an ideal drink. Fresh turmeric easily available in your local markets. No need to take powder or old tablets sitting on your shelf for a while. Simply process the root in a cuisine art and freeze it by storing in ice cube trays and pop it in bag.

For further reference on turmeric, here is a video I recently saw about how certain foods have important therapeutic functions. In addition on the above dishes, turmeric marries well with omelettes, seafood and roasted vegetables.


 1 cup (250ml) almond milk

1 cup (250 ml) water

2 - 3 tsp agave nectar or honey

1 tbsp fresh turmeric, grated

1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

2 crushed cardamom

1/2 clove and pinch of cayenne pepper

Blend all the ingredients in a blender (this is only optional - if you don't want to grate turmeric and ginger) or simply mix together in a saucepan.

Simmer ingredients on the stove gently for 10 minutes.

Strain and drink! Add ice cubes if desired.

Restaurant Consultation: Hey Hey Canteen

Irene Wong

For the past three months, I have been coaching, testing, and perfecting a menu in a restaurant Gowanus, Brooklyn. It gives me great pleasure to announce that it officially opened last week. We are excited to have received many praises and reviews the past few weeks from the media.

Hong Kong Fried Chicken Sandwich with pickled green mango and daikon

Hong Kong Fried Chicken Sandwich with pickled green mango and daikon

Cucumber and tender sprouts toss with Sesame Peanut Noodles

Cucumber and tender sprouts toss with Sesame Peanut Noodles

Kay Ch'ien is the proud owner of Hey Hey Canteen. She and I shared a similar vision of serving "contemporary Asian comfort food" inspired by the dishes that we both grew up with and the places I have spent many years traveling. As the mother of a toddler, Kay wanted to create a friendly, inclusive environment where customers have the ability to choose healthy and affordable options. She also took the neighborhood's growth into consideration, knowing that a restaurant like Hey Hey Canteen would be a welcome addition to the area. 

Yuzu Greens Salad with quinoa and seasonal greens

Yuzu Greens Salad with quinoa and seasonal greens

Seafood Laksa with Prawns, salmon mousse cake and bok choy shoot

Seafood Laksa with Prawns, salmon mousse cake and bok choy shoot

It has been great to collaborate on the concept with the chef on site, Carlos Barrera. Carlos has been cooking since the age of seven and has worked as everything from a personal chef, a chef de cuisine, and an executive chef in places like a Mexican winery, a corporate kitchen, and a 3-Michelin-Starred restaurant. His culinary experience spans his native Mexico, Spain, the Midwest, and New York. I have spent the past three months working side-by-side with him and Kay to bring new, amazing food to the neighborhood. We all have the vision of longterm health and sustain the vibrant of the community.

Hey Hey Canteen at Gowanus, Brooklyn

Hey Hey Canteen at Gowanus, Brooklyn

The canteen's signature is a Seafood Laksa with a blend of carefully-pounded spices and herbs like galangal and cilantro, blended together to create a rich seafood broth. The menu includes everything from a Laotian-inspired Red Rice Salad with slivered Buddha squash, a bowl full with crispy tofu, and seasonal vegetables to my all time favorite, a noodle dish of my grandmother's well known stall in Chinatown, Yangon, Myanmar-Lomein with garlic oil and Roast Char Chiu pork.

The restaurant is located on the cusp of Park Slope and Gowanus, surrounded by many new apartment buildings in need of an eatery like Hey Hey Canteen.

Handwritten Recipes

Irene Wong

What's your memorable handwritten recipe you have received? As Mother's Day is upon us this week, we love that you share some of your memorable recipes with us as I did with Allison Radecki and Rozanne Gold. It will be a nice treat that it can also be expanded into our repertoire of recipes so that we can pass it on.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe as much as I have been having fun going through some of the old pictures and exchanging conversations with my Hungarian part of my family in Budapest

I very much like to hear from you or drop me a comment with your experience.

Have a Happy Mother's Day...

My Heirloom Rice Experience

Irene Wong

Many of us have food allergies with wheat, which prompt us to choose gluten free food. A gluten free food that is a staple especially in Asian countries, obviously or not, is rice. I've become more aware of the vast varieties of grain from my travels to Bhutan, Laos, and Central America, and would like to introduce our guest writer for this month, Amy Dorotan of Purple Yam. I was in a panel discussion at the Asia Society several years ago with a few Asian food experts, where we discussed and learned more about the heritage rice that Amy Dorotan and her husband Romy serve in their Brooklyn, NY restaurants, and she will share with us her insight and story here:

Classic Filipino dish, stuffed squid with heritage rice.   Photo by  Amy Besa

Classic Filipino dish, stuffed squid with heritage rice. 

Photo by Amy Besa

The Cordilleras are a group of provinces in Northern Luzon situated along the Cordillera mountain range: Benguet, Ifugao, Montain Province, Kalinga, Apayao and Abra.  All of these grow rice on rice terraces built on mountain terrain.  The history of these rice terraces is in question and nobody really knows how old they are. They were built without machinery, animals or slaves and instead by mutual cooperation.  Irrigation was designed by early Filipinos that reflect an engineering feat of harnessing mountain water that flowed from the top that would slowly find its way down to the terraces.

We have been using Cordillera heirloom rice in our New York City restaurants since 2006 when Eighth Wonder (owned and run by Mary Hensley) started importing these rice grain varieties in to the United States. We still order  4 varieties regularly: Tinawon (meaning the rice is only harvested  “once a year”), Ulikan Red, Unoy and the glutinous Purple Diket.  Getting to know each rice variety is not unlike getting to know a person because each variety has its own size, shape, cooking times and methods, aromas, textures and flavors.

If you are used to eating polished white rice, shifting to the much healthier organic heirloom variety can be a challenge. Commercial white rice can be sweet like candy like the Thai Jasmine and Vietnamese varieties or semi glutinous Japanese rice that is reminiscent of sushi rice.  All are delicious because our palates have learned to savor all these sumptuous flavorful rice that go well with our Asian dishes that can be salty, sour, bitter, soupy, full of flavor packed sauces often accompanied by a varied array of dips and condiments.

At first, we were purists. Let us not interfere with each rice variety’s flavor profile and let the customer appreciate each one. And we also decided to put them separately on the menu for people to order.  We ended up throwing out a lot of rice at the end of the day because in the hurried pace of a full service restaurant with dozens of people coming and going, the waitstaff did not have time to explain and promote the rice.  And since people assume that rice will be a part of our dishes anyway, nobody bothered to order the heirloom rice.  So we began integrating the rice into the dishes like adobo and that was more effective. Actress like Rachel Weisz would call up for delivery to their SoHo apartment ordering chicken adobo emphasizing that she wanted heirloom rice with it.

When we closed Cendrillon in SoHo and re-opened as Purple Yam in Brooklyn in 2009, we began to integrate the heirloom rice into more dishes such as the Bibimbap, seafood paella and using the purple diket for our bibingka (rice cake) instead of the Japanese Nishiki rice which we normally use. During special occasions, Chef Romy Dorotan would use heirloom rice for our champorado, the Filipino rice version of the Mexican chocolate atole porridge.  The uses for heirloom rice are endless, but one must carefully study how each grain cooks with the proper amount of water (pre soaking times if needed) and which dishes to pair them with.

Photo by Mary Hensley, a former US Peace Corps volunteer, who for thirty years remembered the wonderful aroma of this rice while it was cooking. She runs the  Cordillera Heirloom Rice  Project. 

Photo by Mary Hensley, a former US Peace Corps volunteer, who for thirty years remembered the wonderful aroma of this rice while it was cooking. She runs the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. 

In 2014, we opened up Purple Yam Malate in my childhood home in a very old district in Manila. Naturally, this was a great opportunity to introduce both Filipino and non-Filipino diners in the Philippines to our native nice varieties grown and harvested not too far from where they live.  It is ironic that more people in New York and the tri-state area have tasted and eaten these native rice varieties than Filipinos in the Philippines.

At present, our vegetable fried heirloom rice dishes are the highlight of our degustation.  People finish it up or bring home leftovers. It was a very easy and delicious solution to a complex problem.  Now people ask more questions about the rice, where to get the rice and how to cook each variety at home. At this point, it is so much easier to bring home the point that eating organic heirloom rice is so much healthier.  We explain that the bran is still intact thereby retaining all the vitamins and nutrients of the rice. What heirloom really means: that these rice varieties are owned by a family or a community and that these have been passed down from one generation to the next.  What we are eating today are basically the same set of DNA that our forefathers ate. These rice varieties are what we call in Tagalog, “ang sariling atin” or food that was always ours.

All About Grains

Irene Wong

From Black Rice to Jasmine Rice in a market in  Bagan, Myanmar.

From Black Rice to Jasmine Rice in a market in Bagan, Myanmar.

Most of you know I am an old fashion traditional kinda gal. I mostly cook dishes where the place that I grew up with and places that I have spent some time in. Rice is the staple of life where I grew up. Such variety as fragrant Thai Jasmine Rice, California Wehani, reddish Brown color, to Shan Black Rice from Myanmar. We rarely bring exotic varieties into our daily home cooking. In addition to brown and white rice. Most of us are not even familiar that there are red, black and purple varieties and have different tastes. Certain kinds of rice when we want the grains to be loose and other kinds when we want them to stick together.

Emmer berries with pickled carrots, shashito peppers with drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Emmer berries with pickled carrots, shashito peppers with drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Like the non GMO Farro, it's packed with nutrients, this grain can be used by some who need to follow a gluten-free diet. Emmer berries is another commonly referred to as Farro. I cook emmer like risotto for a scrumptious pilaf or salad during the warmer month. Some one I recalled said "NEW" ANCIENT GRAINS. These definitely aren't new grains, they have been popular and available for a long time. Emmer, the middle-sized grain, is the most common Italian cuisine, I first experienced it in San Gimignano, Italy, when a girl friend of mine invited me for her wedding...Most Farro grown and sold in the United States is Emmer, called Emmer-Farro. It is  semi-pearled, as is the farro presently on the shelf at our Co-op.

Cook like brown Rice after a pre-soak: 2 or 3 to 1, water to grain; cook the better part of an hour on low heat till tender; drain off excess water and cover to plump the grains for a few minutes. I prefer to soak overnight (4 - 6 hour) rinsed well and add water to cover the grain, it should be ready in 15 minutes when the grain opens.

Pearls of quinoa toss with three types of yam and roasted rainbow carrots.

Pearls of quinoa toss with three types of yam and roasted rainbow carrots.

It's not till several years ago that I have been venturing into South America that I got fascinated with Quinoa while I was trekking in Chile. I think there are a lot of people, like me, who have no idea what quinoa, farro, couscous, stell cut oats, millet, etc., are or how to prepare or use them.

Quinoa is a grain-like seed that was domesticated in the Andes Mountains as early as 5000 years ago. It is not a true cereal grain. Its nutritional profile is notably better than common cereals than common cereals that I now make a big batch for part of my breakfast. It is very digestible and gluten-free. Most quinoa is imported from South America, but now so good to see markets are selling the ones that are grow places at high altitudes in Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington.

White and red quinoa - there is no significant nutritional difference and all varieties are a source of complete proteins. I store my quinoa in an airtight container in a cool, dark pantry (light is said to compromise vitamins in grains and seeds, and warmth can make them go rancid), or if you have room in the fridge.

Here is my recipe of quinoa pilaf that is all time favorite of my family.


What's up Yangon!

Irene Wong

The art scene in Yangon is changing fast as the positive reactions from the recent election that majority public has chosen Aung San Suu Kyi as the next new leader of Myanmar. Tea shops and food stalls on the streets are occupied with more young office workers and no longer just hanging out. New sky highways are being built and major expansion from the international airports in Yangon to northern Myanmar in progress since my last visit in 2011.

Here are some of the galleries I have visited on this trip.

Art Scene and Gallery update:

Golden Valley Art Gallery, No. 54/D, Golden Valley, Bahan Township

Pansodan Gallery, 286 Pansodan Road

Law Ka Nat Art Gallery is also nearby at Pansodan at the lower level

Nyein Chan Su painter, his studio gallery in the Pearl condo complex, Gallery 31

KZL Gallery: Khin Zaw Latt - is eponymous, internationally well known artist of this gallery consist of contemporary drawings.

Gallery 65 at 65 Yaw Min Gyi St. Room 304, Building 20B, Yaw Min Gyi Road, Dagon Township.

Newly release book on democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Newly release book on democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Excellent old and new restaurants are popping up; especially downtown of Yangon since my last visit four years ago. New downtown restaurants Rangoon Tea House, great expat hangout in a spacious loft like atmosphere with tasty Burmese tea and traditional dishes that I grew up with. Located right above Sharky's, another great hangout for wealthy locals and tourists who have enough Burmese curries. They offer great wood oven pizza, local cheese and charcuterie.

Green Gallery (Thai) and Tin Tin (Mexican) are refreshing and good value.

The new Le Planteur is still in a beautiful setting and has an incredible wine cellar. It is in a larger location now. French Style - Best Wines in beautiful villa on Inya Lake.

Feel Myanmar (very popular-owned by a Karen Family) not air conditioned but clean and energetic with young professional crowd! There are a few Feel restaurants. 124 Pyi Htaing Su Yeikhtar Street (near the Chinese Embassy).

Lucky Seven early morning for Mohinga and breakfast stuff. Many ethnic restaurants are popping up. Shan Yoe Yar restaurant. Great Shan food! In a setting of an old colonial home. We had fish with crispy fish meat, chayote gourd tender shoots stir fry with garlic was excellent, pork belly Shan style with pickle mustard green.

Minn Lan, traditional hand-pressed Monti and fresh seafood restaurant. Rakhine region is known for their seafood and beautiful beaches. Squid salad, eggplant with Ngapi and dried fish, and wild boar curry.. 16 Parami Road, Mayangone

My morning bowl of Mohinga with a wafer thin lentil fritter

My morning bowl of Mohinga with a wafer thin lentil fritter

If you have an afternoon free, there are many incredible old colonial buildings exist from the British era. Book ahead 2 hour walk with one of the knowledgeable staff from Yangon Heritage Trust to visit some heritage preserved buildings. 22-24 (First Floor), Pansodan Street (lowest block) Kyauktada Township.

Ko Ta Ngar Rakhine

Min Nanda Road, Dawbon township

Jana Mon

114 Nandawon Street, Bahan,  Yangon

The Strand Hotel

Just re-opened after renovation - go have a look! Love their tea-time menu with great Burmese treats or have a drink there.


Japanese fusion downtown on Merchant at Pansodan (Phuong & Sean from Q Bar Hoi An liked this place!)

The Envoy Bar & Grill

New Hang Out with roof garden - downtown - very popular

For more readings, click here

For more pictures of the trip, click here

Lunar New Year 2016 is coming soon!

Irene Wong

During my month long trip to Asia recently I noticed a lot of activity in transit between five different countries. The hustle and bustle was especially apparent at the major airports as the Chinese were making preparations buying designer clothes and fancy gifts in anticipation of the Lunar New Year (February 8) celebrations. Purchasing new items symbolizes new things and getting ready for a new start.

Pronunciation of Fish is the same with "abundance" in Chinese language.

Pronunciation of Fish is the same with "abundance" in Chinese language.

It is customary to pay homage to family and friends the weeks leading up to the New Year during the 15-day Spring Festival by exchanging gifts and sharing extravagant meals to show their appreciation and bestow blessings of good health and prosperity.

Red and Golden Signs for some of our Symbolic Dishes

Red and Golden Signs for some of our Symbolic Dishes

The Chinese are spending at duty free shops on items such as expensive rare wines and whiskey in Hong Kong as well as specialty foods and delicacies for their symbolic New Year's dishes (Eight Treasures Soup) including bird nests and dried fungi in Bangkok and mochi sweets and dried oysters in Tokyo. In addition, candied fruit melon, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds all represent an abundant harvest and is beautifully presented on the Tray of Togetherness.

From our kitchen, Eight Treasures Soup with Crabmeat, Scallop and Shrimp.

From our kitchen, Eight Treasures Soup with Crabmeat, Scallop and Shrimp.

2016 is the Year of the Monkey. According to traditional folk customs, the personality characteristics of those born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, or 2004 include witticism, intelligence and magnetism (i.e, very naughty). It is also referred to as the Year of the Fire Monkey symbolizing energy, cheerfulness and confidence.

May the upcoming New Year be blessed with good health and wealth.

Recipe: Vietnamese Style Turkey Salad

Irene Wong

As the night before thanksgiving, most of us are busy revisiting recipes and baking pies behind the stoves. I am already planning how I would utilized the left over of the roast turkey for the long weekend ahead. 

This year I will add extra zests from the left over turkey meat into a Vietnamese salad that my friend Dao Spencer serves me when I pay her visit for lunch. I toss some Pomelo since it is available this time of the year.


2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 serrano chile with seeds or jalapeno, minced

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 cup vegetable oil, for frying

2 large shallots, thinly sliced


4 cups finely shredded green cabbage (from 1/2 head)

2 carrots, finely shredded

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint

3 cups shredded Turkey meat

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts


In a small bowl, combine fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, water, chile and garlic and stir until dissolved. Let the dressing stand for 5 minutes.

Fry shallots and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.

Drain the shallots on paper towels, reserve the oil for another use. 

Sprinkle the shallots with salt and let cool.

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, carrots, red onion, cilantro, mint and shredded Turkey meat

Add the olive oil and the dressing and toss. 

Sprinkle with the peanuts and fried shallots and serve the salad with lime wedges.


The Art of Throwing a Party

Irene Wong


Almost anyone can throw a party - but what can you do to make your event a truly memorable experience?

1. Plan it out.

This is obvious - however, it is easy to push off, especially if you're a busy person. As we approach the holidays, deciding a party theme can be both fun and stressful since it requires some planning and organizing. No matter the size, it's important to plan things out ahead of time so the event runs smoothly and everyone is basically guaranteed to have a great time.

2. Invite talkers (extroverts).

We love introverts. They have a tendency to keep drama to a minimum. But we value extroverts equally as much for their social vibrancy and ability to keep conversations going. Inviting a "Marilyn Monroe" or a "Madonna" will add a little flare to your event and balance the energy and openness.

3. Invite people in common circles.

Your guests should know at least two other guests - you don't want anyone to walk into a room full of strangers.

pic holiday 2015 blogpost .jpeg

4. Have diversity.

While you do want guest to know a few others, if everyone at the party already hangs out in other places, it can be boring. By having diversity in your guest list, you have a greater chance at networking and interchanging different perspectives and ideas.

In reference to a throwback memory of one of my most upbeat parties, my guests greatly varied in age and background: My teenage god-daughter Julie, Brazilian conversationist Antonio, a rope performer with 13 years of bartending experiences, my 72 years old retired athlete neighbor, and my friend David and his family visiting from Chiang Mai....This made for an exciting yet warm, festive event.

5. Turn up the atmosphere, and turn down the gadgets.

The right decor and music can take your party to another level by heightening our visual and auditorial senses. The overall style of your event is one of the best things you can enhance to make your party memorable.

And yes, do give your guests a friendly reminder to keep gadget use down so you can fully enjoy spending time with each other in person. It's always a good idea to have photos and selfies, but when you're glued to your phone or table at all times at a party, the party experience can become, well, less of an experience.


6. Document the experience.

Nevertheless, photos can help us remember things better. If you see a photographer at the event and they are open to photographing you, definitely ask if they can photograph what you desire. Most people are afraid of 'pestering' photographers as they are usually all over the place, but many times they will be glad to get a shot of you or specific decor, and it will likely end up being forwarded to your host so you can access it later.

And of course, in case you can't get a specific shot via the photographer, remember to get it on your phone or personal camera. Your future self and your social media circles might just thank you.

7. Have some back up ideas handy for the after-partiers.

At one of parties we had, what was supposed to be just an early dinner party turned into an after midnight-scene. We ended up ordering pizza out of spontaneity, now that's a sign of hosting a great party!!!

There you have it - the 7 essentials of creating a memorable party experience for your guests and yourself. Happy Holidays from Saffron59! Thank you, David Jacobson, owner of Smalls, neighborhood hangout jazz bar and founder of Q Bar in Bangkok, Thailand, for providing us a few nice shots. 

Chai Tea

Irene Wong

For several years now, I've prepared freshly-brewed masala chai every morning instead of coffee. I find that the rich tea, crushed spices and fresh ingredients start my morning off in a calm and soothing way. 

I make a large batch in the winter months to drink throughout the day. If I have any left over, I'll put the tea in the fridge for the next day or I'll serve it to any guests that pop into my studio for a visit.

Warm Chai  Tea  with Spices

Warm Chai Tea with Spices

In the summer, I add a few ice cubes for cold chai tea. Here's the recipe:

4 cups of water

2 teaspoons of dark tea, such as Darjeeling or Ceylon

1/2 inch of crushed fresh ginger

(by stomping with flat side of a knife or 1/2 tablespoon of a ground ginger)

4 crushed cardamom pods

2 whole cloves

2 whole star anise pods

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick or a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

2 T brown sugar

Boil 4 cups of water and add the spices above. Once the spiced water has boiled, add 2 teaspoons of dark tea. Boil for 2 more minutes. Add 1/2 cup of whole milk or 1/3 of heavy cream and brown sugar to taste. Simmer on a low flame and strain into a teapot.

makes 5 servings

The spices and herbs I use in my chai tea each have their own important properties:

Ginger helps to improve digestion and protects against symptoms of colds and flu. It stimulates blood circulation-also reduces blood cholesterol. I have a potted ginger plant handy so I can always have ginger available.

Cinnamon can lower LDL cholesterol and has a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes. It is also known for its anti fungal and antibacterial properties.

Cardamom is known to enhance appetite, improve digestion and provide relief from acidity in the stomach. I crush a few green cardamom seeds in herbal tea.

Cloves are considered a healing spice. They're known to heal ailments of the digestive system as well as help the metabolism.

Bay leaf- I add to soups, goulash, roast vegetable dishes, and to a bouquet garni to add flavor. I sometimes drop a few leaves in the pot of steamed jasmine rice.

Star Anise is the picturesque fruit of an evergreen tree native to northeast Vietnam and Southwest China. Star anise is used to help relieve cold symptoms.

A few pieces of star anise will bring the best out of its flavor.

A few pieces of star anise will bring the best out of its flavor.

You can add from black peppercorn to coriander seeds and add your favorite honey for sweetness. Enjoy, Irene Khin

Keeping Up with the Fall Harvest

Irene Wong

Apple season in  West Wind Orchard

Apple season in West Wind Orchard

Whether you're a NYC resident or touring in the vicinity, you might have noticed that fall has just kicked in with a gorgeous assortment of produce. Gourds and squash are appearing in Stone Ridge Orchard and grocer areas around us--Kabocha, for example, is great for a succulent spiced pumpkin squash soup rendition for chilly afternoon and evenings.

There is, however, nothing quite like picking fruits and vegetable yourself, and even better with family and friends. A great location for picking is at West Wind Orchard, in the Hudson Valley, a 2 hour drive from NYC that makes for a great mini road trip as you venture through the lush landscapes. On a weekend visit, Chef Chicco will fire up a wood oven pizza with toppings like kale and prosciutto as you scout for great locally sourced produce like vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes and their award-winning honey.

Freshly picked apples cheer our kitchen table.

Freshly picked apples cheer our kitchen table.

I did a taste test with New England apple varieties like Cortlands, Macintosh, Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious-- My winning favorite is the Ginger Gold with a chartreuse bright yellow skin. I was also able to pick fresh red raspberries, a basket full of eggplants, and a variety of tomatoes from Black Prince Heirloom to Beef Steak. Soon there will be a large field of lettuce again such as Russian Red kale to baby arugula as the weather cools further.

Tomato taste test: black prince heirloom is my favorite.

Tomato taste test: black prince heirloom is my favorite.

Back at home in my urban garden I've grown five varieties of basil - Tulsi to Purple basil in the shady area part of my garden, where the crop tripled over the summer, especially with the extension of the warm weather this year. I've also pickled rainbow carrots and kirby cucumbers and stored some in jars for the winter months--As the summer trails behind us, I'm using the fruitful harvest to my full advantage, and encourage local herbivores and omnivores to do the same!

I always ended up with a trunk full of apples when I go with my family for apple picking.

Here is how to store apples:

  • Store apples in an unsealed plastic bag in the refrigerator; they should last a few weeks
  • Apple release ethylene gas, which speeds up ripening of other fruit
  • Or bake them in crumble, crisp or apple pie egg roll




8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled , cored and cut into 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped for seeds

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons lemon juice (about half a lemon)

Egg Rolls:

Eight 6-inch square egg roll wrappers

2 eggs, beaten

Peanut oil, for frying

Powdered sugar, for dusting

For the filling:

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the apples and vanilla bean and saute for about 2 minutes.

Add the sugar, cinnamon and salt to the pan and cook until the apples start to turn a light caramel-golden brown but aren't falling apart, 6 to 8 minutes.

The apples should still have some tooth to them.

Add the flour and cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, to remove the raw taste from the flour. 

Fold in the lemon juice. Spread the filling out in an even layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate until cold.

For the egg rolls:

Arrange an egg roll wrapper in a diamond shape on a board in front of you.

Brush the borders with a beaten egg. Spoon 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of the filling into the center of the wrapper.

Take care to leave about 1 inch between the filling and the edges of the wrapper.

Fold the end of the wrapper nearest you over the filling, then fold the sides over. 

Finally, roll the wrapper into a tight cylinder, tucking and tightening as you go.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers until all the filling is used.

As you go, remember to keep the unused wrappers, as well as the finished egg rolls, covered with a towel to prevent them from drying out.

Add 4 to 5 inches of oil to a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven and heat to 350 degrees F.

Fry the egg rolls in batches of 4 until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

The Chicken or the Eggs...

Irene Wong

Along the Hudson Valley, just 2 hours away...leaf ride!

There are abundantly fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, from sustainable farms with orchards and grass-few cows.

At Saffron59 we strive to source local for freshness and support our farmers. For us New Yorkers, we are blessed with farmers not only from Hudson Valley but also from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. At the Union Square Market, one can find produce from Burmese okra to shashito peppers. I recently purchased delicious grass-fed steak & kale parmesan sausages at the Applestone Meat, formerly from one of the butchers Fleishman and they are located below Catskills, NY. 

It's rewarding and satisfying to buy from your local farmers and creates a sense of community, even in a big city like New York! Get to know the farmers, ask questions..they love to tell you their methods...and are glad you're curious. For example: ever wonder when you open up a box of different colored eggs, light blue, white and brown....what this means? The color of chicken eggs is determined by the genetics of the hens. The breed will indicate what color eggs she'll produce. As the Ameraucana species will yield blue color eggs. Barnavelder will be dark brown and Buckeye is light brown. I learned while hiking in a small kingdom country, Bhutan several years ago. A farmer at a village explained to me, regardless the egg shell color, the taste has no difference.

Did you know Rooster is not a necessary for hens in order to lay eggs? A rooster is needed to fertilize the eggs to hatch them into baby chicks, but hens will lay just as many eggs whether there's a rooster around or not. Roosters sound the alert against predators or other perceived danger, calming the hens, so that they may lay their tasty eggs in peace.

Did you know that each individual garlic clove goes through the winter months deep in the soil till late spring when the 'scapes' blossom, yielding nice, succulent bulbs in the summer?

Matured garlic scapes, a prized addition in the kitchen

Matured garlic scapes, a prized addition in the kitchen

Now to bitter melons: I planted their seeds in the spring after the last frost. The tiny, yellow bright flowers need pollinating in order to bear fruit. growing plants that attract bees, their pollination helps bear more tasty fruits and vegetables for the coming summer and beyond: a lengthy process, but worth the wait. The rewards are incredible, tasty and nutritious.

Bitter gourd in 4 months to 1 1/2 month

Bitter gourd in 4 months to 1 1/2 month

Not Only Berries..

Irene Wong

Yes, it is every where, abundance of sweet colorful berries are easily available in the summer. They are not only great eaten alone but also delicious in crumble, tart, yogurt and smoothies. This time of the year, avocado is also my favorite! It is light, flavorful and delicious, it's a quick pick me up on a hot summer afternoon as energy booster. Not only I have use them in guacamole, but also creating ice cream and smoothies this time of the year.

In preparation for avocado smoothie

In preparation for avocado smoothie

Recently, I spent a weekend in my friend Ruth Barash's beach house. After return from a swim, Ruth smashed the two ripened avocados to a nice creamy texture with a squeeze of lime juice, salt and served with various chips along with her concoction of vodka before dinner.

During the time that I have spent in Vietnam, this is one of favorite snack. It is nutritious and rich supplement, especially after getting off from taking a two hour Vietnamese lessons in a non air condition room. My cyclo driver will take me by a street near the market in down town Saigon with vendors specialized in selling mixed fruit drinks. I will go to my usual vendor, a family owned a shake shack, his cart is beautifully displayed and it is decorated with fresh fruits from durians to vine ripened mangoes for shakes and three large ice crushers.

My all time favorite that I would order is sinh to bo, an avocado shake with condense milk. It is delicious, thirst quenching and a large gulp of this cold rich shake with a straw sends and numb my brain. From what I remembered living in Vietnam during my four years there, there are always avocados all year round. The French had introduced avocados in the 40's and it is grown in the high land area as well as in Mekong delta. It is rich in oil and low in sugar and good source of vitamin C.

Out of the blender, creamy delicious avocado smoothie

Out of the blender, creamy delicious avocado smoothie

Here is the recipe from my great friend Andrea Nguyen, of avocado smoothie. It is so delicious that I make in large batches when I have guests over. I added some brown sugar since I was low with the condense milk

Makes about 2 1/4 cups, enough to serve 2 or 3

1 ripe medium avocado (6-8 ounces)

1 cup ice (8 ice cubes)

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/4 to 1/2 cup milk

Scoop the avocado flesh into a blender. Add the remaining ingredients, starting out with the least amount of milk and puree until completely smooth. Taste and add additional milk, depending on the avocado type and if thinner consistency is desired.

Click here to see another avocado recipe I have contributed for Cooking Channel.

Avocado Smoothie (VEGAN OPTION)

1/4 cup of coconut milk

1/8 cup of sugar

1 avocado, hess variety

4 cups of ice


Irene Wong

"If you are not sitting down and enjoy your garden by June, you need to find another hobby"

Clover Timothy Calmmunity Tea with snips of Lemon Verbena and Calendula from my garden

Clover Timothy Calmmunity Tea with snips of Lemon Verbena and Calendula from my garden

This month I am writing from my urban garden. "June is here and I treasure the moments of enjoying a cup of tea by Clover and Timothy. I discovered this lovely tea through my yoga practice. Whether I am on the road or at home I have made a routine to practice some sort of meditation or quiet time to myself. A few years back when I took a yoga class with Alicia she brewed her tea after our class. I was very intrigued and found it soothing that we all share great cup of herbal tea before we all go on our way.

Recently when she told me that she is launching her new handcrafted herbal tea line. I asked her that she will be my blog guest this month. Here is the recent conversation we had one afternoon at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden Alicia shared with me.

Alicia in he studio in Brooklyn

Alicia in he studio in Brooklyn

A tisane is any beverage made from plants other than Camellia sinensis, the well known "tea" plant. Tisanes are made from many flowers, leaves, berries, barks and spices of this earth, the wonderful plants that we call herbs.

I first started working with herbs ten years ago. I had just discovered yoga and was seeking alternative ways to care for my body; studies in herbalism and Ayurveda followed naturally.

I then moved to Southeast Asia and settled in Singapore. The streets of my neighborhood were lined with herb shops selling all sorts of dried roots, exotic berries and barks. Inspired by the local scene I set up my first home apothecary and started to experiment.

When I returned to NYC I began wildcrafting, making my own remedies and exploring local herb farms. And so it began, my herb company Clover and Timothy was born.

I blend my teas with three main things in mind. First I consider nourishment. As the base for each tea I choose herbs that are known nutritive tonics. These are herbs that support our general wellbeing and are high in vitamins and minerals. Herbs such as stinging nettles and oats fall into this category. I also choose herbs that support overall health by being calming, mood lifting and digestive.

Great for iced tea- Lemon-Aid  (lemongrass, cardamom and spearmint)

Great for iced tea-Lemon-Aid (lemongrass, cardamom and spearmint)

Flavor is no less of a consideration. When we eat or drink flavors we love we release feel good hormones that help us relax and connect. In my blends I always include aromatic herbs and spices and I pay careful attention to subtleties of each plant so that the herbs complement each other. This creates flavors that are full, unique and fun to drink.

Last but not least I blend for quality and work diligently to create the most vital brews available. Many commercial herbal tea are grown with high levels of pesticides and are grown in soil that has been stripped of nutrients. All of the herbs I work with are organic, many are fair-trade and many are local. When I created the line I choose to feature plants that will thrive in local gardens and farms in the Northeastern US. I am committed to working with local farms and local plants whenever possible and to spreading knowledge of these plants and their properties.

My hope is that by getting people excited about herbs, I will inspire people not just to drink and enjoy herbal tisanes but to create more herb gardens and reclaim the age-old art of herbal medicine.