Hummus, and other gems in second-tier cities


My favorite hummus, ever, was ordered at a Turkish restaurant called Bosphorous, located on a popular street in the mega-city (and our old home) of Guangzhou, China–population 12-15 million, depending who you ask. Quite an unexpected location for a platter of really amazing hummus, right?!

By the time I left Guangzhou, there were two branches of Bosphorous open, but the original, located near the Xiao Bei (小北 ) metro stop in a neighborhood casually known as Little Africa, was the one I preferred due to it’s…ahem, more “rustic” quality, which I personally think made the food just that much tastier. Plus the original was located next to a nightclub called 50 Cent. The club was always an option for a night out for our group of friends, since it involved going no earlier than midnight, Chinese girls dressed in turkish belly dancer outfits dancing around and on tables, and amazing people-watching. It’s also the only place I’ve seen more men on the dance floor than women, I think.

Every order of hummus eaten since 2010 has warranted comparisons to that one creamy, nutty, fluffy, olive-oily hummus, served at Bosphorous–at the long and crowded communal tables, in a smoke-filled room that was milling with so many dark-haired, olive-skinned Middle Easterners that you’d think you were in Ankara or Istanbul proper. It was a hummus that was perfectly drizzled with rich olive oil and garnished with a single olive, one olive that the Diploman and I were always wont to fight over during subsequent trips back–and there were many, many trips back during our two years there.


And such is part of the beauty of these International second-tier cities, like Guangzhou. Like Dar. For every Michelin-starred gem in Hong Kong or Cape Town, there are also equally spectacular gems to be uncovered in lesser known, smaller-named cities. Great hummus isn’t a reason to visit Guangzhou, but it’s certainly a perk of one’s time there.

Here in Dar, I’ve found excellent BBQ prawns at BBQ Village, spiced and smooth curried chickpeas at Patel Brotherhood, satisfying grilled fish on the beaches of Bongoyo Island, open-air rooftop dining scooping up Ethiopian lentils at Addis in Dar, and the richest, most luxurious seafood platter at Alexander’s Guesthouse, tucked away in the backroads near my house.

And while none of these are the sole reason that I’m here, nor are the the sole reason you should come and visit (aside from grilled fish on the beach…that’s pretty compelling, isn’t it?), they certainly make spending some time in this city all the more exciting.

Homemade Bosphorous-ian Hummus 

I’ve created what I think is a hummus, on par with the best hummus I’ve ever had from that unlikely Chinese Turkish restaurant. This is one that I proudly bring to any potluck, picnic, fundraiser, or party, anywhere I am in the world.


  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, shelled (see instructions below), about 1 1/4 cups chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup tahini paste
  • Juice from 1 ripe, juicy lemon, about 4 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbsp. Chickpea water (liquid reserved from draining chickpeas from the can)
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. filtered water

shelling chickpeas



  1. Shell chickpeas- meaning, remove the bean from the translucent film covering each chickpea. This step isn’t mandatory, but it will create a much smoother hummus, separating just-average hummus from truly-great hummus! It’s a slow and methodical process, but it’s not too tiresome. The best way I’ve found is to pinch a single chickpea between your thumb and pointer finger until the bean slips out, leaving its shell between your fingers.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend for 30 seconds, or until super creamy. Of course everyone’s texture preferences are difference, so if you prefer even smoother add another tablespoon or two of water. Keep in mind, the hummus will firm up just a little bit after some time in the fridge.
  3. Serve drizzled with a generous pour of olive oil over the top.
And just FYI, here’s the address to Bosphorous. You’ll find 50 Cent just down the street…
Bosphorus Turkish Restaurant near XiaoBei metro stop
304 Huanshi Middle Road, Yuexiu, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China, 510350
+86 20 8356 3578


Layover >> my 24 Hours in Amsterdam

The other day, I ventured to give some advice on how to travel.

Maybe I should stick to giving advice about cheese


Because with my endorsement to travel ‘with no expectations’, there are, of course, downfalls to what I’m calling the path of least expectations. In the instance of going to Amsterdam, the downfall manifested itself on our flight across the Atlantic, when somewhere over London, I realized I probably should have at least researched directions, maybe transportation options, to our hotel. The Type-A spreadsheet maker inside me was horrified. A case of the iPhone generation, truly.  I’d like to think I kept my panic covered under some sort of Poker face, but I don’t think the DiploMan was convinced. Luckily on the walk to customs I discovered Schipol Airport welcomes weary travellers with free wifi, which was the first indication that yes, this Amsterdam trip was a good choice. Thus I was able to do a quick search of our hotel name (yes, I’m telling you I wasn’t very prepared this time) while waiting in the Customs line. Crisis averted.

So, there we were, with our 6 pieces of luggage in a Mercedes Benz taxi (reason #bajillion why Amsterdam was awesome), driving into Amsterdam in the early hours of the misty morning. Amsterdam, you are cold in June!!


Not much happens at 8am in Amsterdam. Lots of people riding bikes to work and to school, but otherwise it’s a sleepy little town. We grabbed breakfast at one of the only open joints in the middle of town, and after formulating a game plan, we headed back to our hotel to check in early and take a nap (totally part of the game plan).


Fast forward to 3pm. Yes, that’s right, that’s not a typo. We ended up sleeping until 3pm. We are bad tourists, you say? On the contrary, mon amie. Why would we struggle to keep our tired eyes and even more jet lagged bodies awake, hitting up the sights of Amsterdam like Zombies. I know myself, I doubt I would remember what I saw. And whereas our jet lag was not COMPLETELY worn off when we awoke (admittedly, to an alarm I had set), it had served to adjust us off the Pacific Standard Time we had originally arrived on.


 Oh Amsterdam, Why do you do it ALL so good?!

With maps in tow – paper for me and digital for the Diploman (our personal preferences) – we hit the city. We decided to explore en fooot rather than on wheels. One, because that would allow us to poke our heads into the dozens of shops that lined the street as we fancied. Two, because frankly the bike traffic in Amsterdam is a bit intimidating to one who just wants to wander. I imagined a collision or two or a couple of flying Dutchmen (huh?) in my future, had we opted for bikes.

We walked around the spiral streets of the city, curling and weaving through neighborhoods.


During our almost exactly 24 hours in Amsterdam, we indeed experienced flowers, art, architecture, design, food, smoke shops, coffee shops, and “coffee shops”. While we may not have immersed ourselves in any one or another (except for food, but you know us), I’m glad we were able to get an overview of beautiful Amsterdam.


I’m already looking forward to our next layover in town.

**So, The other day, I shared some photos from my camera. These here little diddies are from my iPhone.The flower market was a dud – skip it if you’re visiting in town – but the shops and bars that littered the city were all great to pop in and out of. The red light district was COMPLETELY fascinating, and the houses, architecture, and layout of the city was just so cool.
Where we ate, that you should go too!: 
L’invite Le Restaurant
Bloemgracht 47
1016 KD Amsterdam
+31 20 570 20 10
Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 18:00, Lunch Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00.
We arrived on foot, which aside from bicycles, seems to be a fine way to get there.

Adventure Tasks: Peking Gourmet Inn

Before I get started on this amazing place called Dar, I want to revisit a few favorite places from back home – whatever that word means these days. As an aspiring writer, as a versed traveller, and I suppose inherently as an American, I often find the US all too familiar and all too bland in its everyday, and consequently will fall off the blogging wagon – or get on, whatever the one that’s not a good thing. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – there are just as many thrills and just as much to explore during our everyday lives in the US as there are living in an exotic place. Apparently, it takes being away to realize this, because I sure as hell wasn’t this inspired four months ago. Alas…grass….greener….you know.

peking gourmet-teacup

Looking back, I smile when I think about the places I was able to visit and the new friends I acquired, and as a whole about the entire newness that was living in DC for eight months, all of which, in between these amazing new experiences I’m having, I do find a little bit of time to miss.

I’ve been wanting to write about them for some time, so I suppose now – when I have 20G of internet connection slowly ticking down (will explain that reasoning later), a houseful of ugly furniture and even uglier tile (whyyyyyy kitchen tile, whyyyyyy), and a high sun that shines on me like hell hath fury on my straight black hairs and cluster of Asian freckles, I supposed now is as good a time as any to stay inside under my ceiling fan and A/C and write.

In the nine months of living back in the states, excluding a week here and there when I was home visiting my parents, I could count the number of times I ate Chinese Food. That number was two. A pretty lousy, pretty lonely, pretty sad number of a number, no? I suppose after two years of living in China, all the Diploman and I wanted to do was alternate between tacos al pastor and trips to Sweetgreen….sort of joking, but it did happen more than once where we would have lunch at Sweetgreen and dinner at El Chucho, and the next day have lunch at Sweetgreen and then dinner at El Centro, and the day after that, lunch at Chipotle and then dinner at Sweetgreen.

peking gourmet-menu

When I wasn’t eating gourmet salads and slow roasted marinated pork, I tried to venture out of my bubble. Peking Gourmet Inn was one of these adventures.

Adventure Task Number One: Leave DC, via the freeway, which –holy cow I live in a bubble– is definitely a new adventure in itself. And then you take one of the exits, which spits out into stripmallville, which is precisely Adventure Task Number Two: Balk in Awe at Stripmalls. In case you’re wondering, these stripmalls look the same as they do in Southern California as they did in the nether-wheres of Virginia and/or Maryland (because to me, the two are still somewhat a blob). Predictably, stores like Vitamin Shoppe (with an “e” thank you very much) and Best Buy and Target and video-rental-stores-slash-adult-video-stores all laid out in perfect little plots.

Finally, after passing about five strip malls that weren’t the one, we found the one strip mall that was the one! Adventure Task Number Three: Arrive at Peking Gourmet Inn.

Walking into the restaurant recalled a mish-mash of every other Chinese restaurant I had ever been to, whether at home in the States or during my two years in China. Middle-aged waiters dressed like penguins, stern-faced and very quick with movements. Knick Knacks of gold and red adorning the walls. Walls covered with framed photographs, of people who were presumeably owners or investors or perhaps just waitstaff, shaking hands and getting chummy with politicians and movie stars – definitely more the former than the latter, we are in DC after all. A matronly hostess, acknowledging our presence but somehow managing to make us feel ignored, belittled, and having to pay her respect just to get a table, even though we did have reservations. Adventure Task Number Four: Get the hostess’ attention!

Because we have a 6pm reservation, we’re one of the first ones to arrive. We are shown our seats through the maze of a restaurant (though all walls of the maze are filled with decor and picture frames) and then given menus the size of the Declaration of Independence. Adventure Task Number Five: Ordering Food from a Giant Menu. Flipping through, I come to a happy realization that I am now in the Virginia suburbs, which might as well have been a mini China in-itself, and can finally feast on great Chinese Food again. Because Chinese Food has a bad rap, it has many many bad imitations, and good Chinese Food is truly something angels could possibly sing about.

peking gourmet-duck

I happily chirp in with my suggestions (Family Style Tofu!! Sauteed Garlic Sprouts!!!) and we agree on a handful of dishes as well as two orders of Peking Duck for the five of us. That’s almost one duck between me and my friend, but who’s counting? After all, at a place like Peking Duck Gourment Inn, you cannot miss the duck, and ordering one just seemed silly.

The duck was brought out and carved tableside, breasts gleaming and oozing with oil each time the expertly-wielded machete made its way into the meat. Skin and Meat were grouped alongside each other on a porcelain dish, with the fat scraped and patted down between carving.

Each dish that came to our table was served to us in a manner as if we were either children incapable of serving ourselves, or else we were high kings in an ancient court. Either way, we were just shy of being spoonfed our first bites. Waiter rolled our first peking duck pancakes for us. They spooned our veggies onto our plates. They poured our tea. Our head waiter would come up to us in between bites, leaning in very closely to ask, “It’s good, yes?”

We would reply, “Mmmmm, yes!”

And he would say, feigning a very convincing surprised, “Thank you!”

This went on throughout the entire dinner, after every dish was brought out. Adventure Task Number Six: Stuff yourself silly.

peking gourmet-meal


Two years without a Big Mac? Easier said than done.


Living abroad will make you do funny things. It’ll have you making friends with individuals you never would at home, it has you going on adventures you wouldn’t ever think you would, and it has you eating things you never thought you’d eat.

Yeah, sure, I’m talking about crazy foods like insects, intestines, pigeons (which is on the lovely platter pictured above), duck tongues, and chicken cookies (yes, that’s a thing). But I’m also talking about fast food: Burger King, KFC, Subway, and McDonalds, the last two of which were my personal vices in China. Here at home, I rarely eat McDonalds, and Subway even less. One, because there are so many other options for a burger or sandwich these days. Two, because of the social condemnation I’ll face from all my foodie friends and my healthy community. Three, because they’ve been making too many movies about how fast food will kill you these days.

But when I was in India, and I had a horrible stomach thing where I couldn’t keep anything down, the only thing I craved and could stomach was a 5-pc box of chicken nuggets. And it was so comforting, so delicious, so familiar – as good as a bowl of chicken noodle soup, I swear. There we go, my memoir might just be called “Chicken Nuggets for the Soul, A Life of Eating Abroad“.

When abroad, not only are these places and the food they serve more familiar, but I firmly believe they actually taste better than when eaten at home. At these fine overseas establishments, I look around and things are cleaner, people are happier, it’s an all around more pleasant of an experience.

no mac map

So today, when I came across this pretty awesome infographic that charts countries without a McDonald’s, my heart felt a little heavier. Africa definitely has got some catching up to do. And then I zoomed in, and then, I’m not going to lie, I gasped a mini gasp of disappointment when I saw that Tanzania was indeed blue – a deep, dark, empty shade of blue. I don’t think I’ve ever stepped foot in a country that did not have a McDonald’s…

Luckily, I know for a fact there are Subways franchised in Tanzania. Don’t worry, it’s only when I’m abroad.

infographic c/o hejorama


DC Dining Round Up, December 2012

It’s not December anymore. Heck, we’re already a week deep into 2013, but somehow I’ve still got my mind stuck in 2012. For the New Year (which I’m reluctantly shlepping into) I’ve got lots of intentions – to write, to network, to share, to open myself to new opportunities and new experiences. So to mark my fourth full month of living in the District and to follow these intentions with some action, I’ve compiled a second list of places to check out around DC.

DC’s dining scene certainly has a few holes to be filled, and to more adventurous and seasoned big-city (read: snobby) diners, the ‘scene’ here may be a bit disappointing at first. But as I learn more and more about the folks in the industry here and the new ideas that are coming forward, I’m willing to vouch for a good, solid future in DC dining.

The six places I’ve listed below are definitely some favorites I’ve frequented in the past months, and will continue to frequent this coming year. In an effort to curb my tendency for extreme wordiness, I’ve kept recommendations more concise. Hit me up if you want to know exactly what I thought about each, you know I’m happy to spill my guts.

Blind Dog Cafe

Go here, buzz up on some coffee and some stellar baked goods, and pound out some work on your laptop

Blind Dog Croissant If I’m not at Kafe Bohem like I mentioned in October, you can find me at Blind Dog. The food is better and the coffee a bit stronger (although, no free refills, boo), although the lack of good seating and tables wreak havoc on my back. What keeps me returning, in addition to fast free wifi and quiet work time, is the BEST croissant I’ve had yet in DC. Plus they have amazing chocolate chip cookies – this coming from a girl who isn’t a big fan of chocolate chip cookies. Of course, i try not to get both the croissant and the cookie on the same day.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie
944 Florida Avenue Northwest, Washington DC 20001
(202) 290-2865
Monday-Friday 7:30am-4:00pm, Saturday & Sunday 8:00am-4:00pm 


Go here with friends for a great Friday night dinner. and also if you are obsessed with Top Chef and still watch every episode of every season

“Is he the guy who make the pepperoni sauce?” This question was asked by DiploMan, who impressed me with his sneaky Top Chef dish-recognition skills. Why yes, that would be Mike Isabella, of Top Chef season 7 fame. We arrived for a 10pm reservation and were instructed to wait at the bar a bit longer – which turned into half an hour (and a weird stare-down from the hostess). But that’s fine, my friends and I were perfectly satiated with a round of drinks and a complimentary charcuterie board as soon as we arrived to our table. Frankly, the wait was very soon forgotten with an amazing round of small plates and a pretty damn tasty pizza (blistering hot out of the pizza oven).
6th Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001


Go here to get crunk with a group of folks. Spider bowls and ramen bowls all around!!

Spider BowlIt’s a dark bar, with one wall crammed floor to ceiling with rum and rum-friendly mixers. That’s good. But it gets better. Hogo has also got food – the kind of really good, really creative, un-advertised menu that one might find in dark LES corners and far-flung Brooklyn outposts. The bar is located in a seedy strip between Chinatown and the Convention Center (no man’s land!!) and doesn’t even have a proper marquee, but frankly it all adds to the allure of the bar. Decor is also pretty minimal, aside from the huge pieces of graffiti artwork done by a local artist – rumor is the work was commissioned to compensate for a bar tab from neighboring sister bar, the Passenger.

The kitchen is open as long as the bar is, making it the premier late-night dining option in DC, if you ask me (also, I think the only place in DC right now where you can get Spam Musubi). The menu will change constantly alongside the roster of rotating chefs Hogo has planned.
1017 7th Sreet Northwest, Washington DC 20001

Tuesday-Thursday 5:00pm-1:30am, Saturday & Sunday 5:00pm-2:30am


Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

Go here on a nice date, because you’ll love each other so much more after 6 courses of oysters.

Pearl Dive _Washingtonian The DiploMan doesn’t even like seafood all that much, and we both ate our faces off at this fine establishment. There’s usually an absurd wait for the restaurant, but that fact is assuaged by the fact that you can walk upstairs and enjoy a couple drinks at an equally rowdy and busy bar, BlackJack (complete with a bocce ball room in the back). One of my favorite meals so far in DC.
1612 14th Street Northwest  Washington, DC 20009
(202) 319-1612
Friday-Sunday 11:00am-3:00pm
 (BRUNCH), Monday- Sunday 5:00pm- 10:00pm

Thai X’ing

Go here if you want an authentic taste of Southeast Asian cooking, a rarity in any city in the states. Plus, it’s cheap!

Thai Xing Fish dish For homestyle, straightforward Thai cooking, Thai X’ing lives up to the hype. The underground restaurant, once operating from a tiny, basement-level apartment, has now spread to all three floors of the LeDroit neighborhood row house. There’s a team comprised of forceful Thai ladies, adept Mexican servers, and one funny bumbling, fumbling 50-year old Australian host. The menu is pre-set each day, and is coursed out in appetizers, mains, and desserts. Food is plenty and tasty, and beers – assuming you’ve brought your own – can be as flowing as you’d like. Dinners on Friday and Saturday are $40 per person.

Also, newsflash.
515 Florida Ave, NW, Washington DC 20001
Tuesday-Sunday 5:30pm-10:00pm

Union Market (no-brainer)

Go here with your parents, your in-laws, your friends, your toddlers, or your co-workers. It’s good for anyone because it’s got options for everyone!!

Union Market Exterior+flickr

Soooo I work here, which means I happen to eat here a lot too. But, this mention has nothing to do with a bit of nepotism, and everything to do with the fact that this place is awesome, filling a much-needed whole in DC’s dining and market scene. A few standouts, aside from Righteous Cheese of course, happen to be Border Springs Lamb, Neopol Smokery, and Trickling Springs Creamery. But there’s also a kick-ass home accessories boutique, a spice shop, Rappahanock Oyster bar, and a knife-sharpening joint – where I still have not yet mustered up the courage to overcome the embarrassment of bringing in $20 JR Henkel knives I bought at Target to get sharpened.

Bagel Sandwich

And yes, that’s bacon in my bagel sandwich.
@unionmarketdc, #UMnow
1309 5th Street Northeast, Washington DC 20002


Image Credits: Graffiato pizza: Rey Lopez c/o Eater DC // Pearl Dive restaurant: David Phillipich c/o Washingtonian Magazine // Thai X’ing dish: Thai X’ing web page // Union Market: flickr //

Upcoming to-do list: Maple, WTF, Two Amy’s, Bar Pilar, Komi, El Chucho. Let’s see if I get around to any of those.

All-star Dining in New Orleans at Maurepas Foods

Royal Street Balcony

So much of New Orleans made it a truly special place: its ornate iron-wrought balconies, its colorful additions of purples greens and golds decorating the city, its funny and virtually unintelligeable local dialect, its rich and completely self-preserved history, the Spanish moss draped over old oak trees throughout the city, the designation of “uptown” – in reference to upriver rather than any true North that I could point out on a map.

NoLA architecture

And, let’s not forget the local cuisine, so historically infiltrated with immigrant influences combined with seasonal local catch from the bayou and the nearby Gulf waters.

New Orleans is a city of leisure – much of the population is content to pass their days without a lick of work, only making efforts to eat and drink with friends and family. Minus the hurricane threat and huge percentage of welfare population, it’s much of what I imagine one version of heaven to be like.

case at Cafe D'Or

Within the immediate city borders there are numerous options to grab ‘n go, ranging from beignets to muffulattas to hurricanes and New Orleans gin fizzes (made with milk! ick!). Then there are the restaurants, sprouting up one after another following Katrina’s aftermath, with a local epicurean fervor that I could have only dreamed of. Prior to this trip, a heated exchange of emails occurred not only planning a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal, but also figuring out where our dining options on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were to be.

Cochon marquee

sausage and charcuterie platter

We settled on three of the hottest, culinariest (that’s not a word, I just made that up), and highly recommended restaurants in three corners of the city: Root, Cochon, and Maurepas Foods.

My favorite?

Maurepas Foods.

Hands down.

Dinner at Maurepas

The Bywater section of New Orleans runs up against the Ninth Ward, and along with the Ninth Ward was one of the areas hit hardest during Katrina. It’s now a growing area of teeny tiny houses surrounded by large warehouses and a swampy waterfront view. On the night that we visited Maurepas, our cab driver got lost in the narrow streets of the neighborhood and overshot the restaurant by a few blocks. This would have typically been fine, but that night the air in the bywater smelled like some sort of burning sewage and was making me nauseous. Increasingly being referred to as the Williamsburg of New Orleans (read: hipster central), Bywater still had a far way to go before a complete gentrification was to be achieved.

We eventually arrived to what seemed like the only visibly lit corner of the neighborhood, with a yoga shop facing kitty-corner to the restaurant. Ahhh, the first sign of true yuppification, a yoga studio!

As soon as we walked into the restaurant, the smell of toxic tar was replaced by a welcoming warmth of food and conversation inside. Settling into Maurepas was quick and immediate. The host, though a bit over-the-top and intrusive, was nice enough, and sat us after a short 15 minute wait. The menu was something straight out of my dreamworld: heavy on vegetables and sides, mostly straightforward though with a few unique twists from around the world, and best of all- cheap. A simple appetizer $4-6. A side of greens $3. Main dishes $7-$12. Having such a beautiful menu come so cheap was a surprise to all of us who had lived in New York and Los Angeles.

Highlights of the evening included Whistle Pig rye whiskey for only $10 a pour!!!!!!!!! Beat that anywhere, and I’ll send you a check. Food-wise, I loved the side of greens, which was so simple but not overdone as you would find in most southern food restaurants. I was also a HUGE fan of the goat tacos. I tend to find goat a little too funky in flavor, but the meat in these tacos were mild and the corn tortillas lovely and soft, and the tacos were paired with a nice zesty green salsa. Yum.

Maurepas was BY FAR my favorite meal of the trip. In terms of dishes, ambience, and cost,   and of course that order of Whistle Pig, it alone is a major reason to visit New Orleans.

Here is where I had the best meal in New Orleans:

Maurepas Foods3200 Burgundy Street, New Orleans, LA
open everyday except Wednesday, 11am-2am