Malaysian Beef

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Greetings from sunny and slightly humid Los Angeles! This past week has been a true test of my perseverance and grit. What, you may ask, did I do last week? Did I, perhaps, climb Mt. Everest or run a marathon? Maybe sit in a room full of spiders? The answer is no: I went to the CrossFit Games and Disneyland. The test that I spoke of had to do with going out to eat for 2/3 of ALL MEALS and waiting in line, in the sun, for hours on end. I have had enough of lines to last a life time.

Jonji’s cousin Kevin flew in on Wednesday, where he joined us in watching the Games beach event at Hermosa beach. The next day the three of us went to the CBS studios for a viewing of The Price is Right, where a large group of Jonji’s classmates had gathered in line. I had agreed to go at the last minute, since I figured it would only last a couple hours at most. I could not have been more wrong. After waiting in line for one hour, we got to go into another line, where we waited another hour before taking photos and going through more screening. After that, we waited in yet another line for a couple more hours, during which the employees took everyone’s cell phones. Finally, after FIVE HOURS of waiting in lines, we got seating inside. I now completely understand people’s insane joy when they get called up to play on stage, because all that waiting finally paid off for them. Neither Jonji nor I got called up, but one of his classmates did—watch The Price is Right on November 4th to see our faces in the background only a couple rows from the contestant podiums! At the very end of the show, when the cameras had been shut off, the hosts drew a number (we were all given numbers in line) out of a basket for a $100 cash prize. I had never won any sort of raffle in my life, so when they read out my number I was stunned. I’ll admit, I acted just as crazily as everyone else in there as I jumped up and down and ran up to the stage. Beet-red and beaming, I pumped the host’s hand and waved to the crowd. If you had waited in line as long as I had, you would understand how great that moment was. To celebrate, Jonji, Kevin and I made a trip to Neveux, which is the best way to celebrate anything and everything.

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The next three days were filled with the CrossFit Games. I had never been before, even though I’ve been involved in CrossFit for over five years, so it was a new experience for me. Jonji’s parents arrived on Friday, and we all squished into the car every morning to head over to the Stub Hub Center. I provided everyone with sandwiches every morning, feeling like Mrs. Weasley (“I’ve made you all sandwiches… No, they’re not corned beef.” –HP Book 3). Once there, we lathered up with sunscreen, threw on hats, and baked in the sun to watch the NorCal team. I got quite a decent tan, except for my stomach which still looks as though it’s in the middle of winter. A plus side to going to the Games is all the people watching—for some reason, spectators seem to think that they need to dress like they’re working out on the sun to watch the events.

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On Monday, Jonji, Kevin, Pat, Taz, Oakes, and I went to Disneyland (California Adventures, to be exact). I had never been before—from a designer’s perspective, Disneyland is pretty dang cool. The environments created there are extremely thorough; it’s like a permanent, working movie set. We went on nearly all the rides, up until the combination of corn dogs and the roller coaster made Jonji and I too nauseous to do more than sit on a park bench. In Jonji’s case, this also meant taking a fifteen minute nap sitting with his head on his chest. All in all, my favorite ride was the river-rafting one because a) it didn’t make me feel sick and b) it cooled us off from the intense heat.

Oakes was especially cute to watch, especially when he got a toy light-up Mickey Mouse wand. He proceeded to show us some truly spectacular dueling moves. When Taz asked him, “What do you say?” to Pat, who got him the wand (looking for a thank you), Oakes replied, “I’m gonna kill the tree.” I love the random things kids say.

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Everyone left Tuesday morning. The last week was a lot of fun, and a heck of an energy sucker. I’ve never felt so relieved to stay home all day yesterday. One thing we did go do was get our new couch, a Craigslist find, which Kitty has already claimed as hers. But for the most part, we caught up on random odds and ends that had piled up during our busy week. After eating out so often the last few days, I have gained a new appreciation for my own cooking.

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I made the following recipe several months ago, and simply had other recipes lined up to post before it. However, that does not lessen its value. The dish may sound intimidating (if it were called American beef, would it sound easier?), but I guarantee it is not at all difficult. It’s full of flavor and fatty-goodness, and it requires minimal work. It’s also braised in coconut milk; need I say any more? In fact, you’ll need to eat this slowly so as to avoid a richness-induced stomach ache—a challenging feat when all you want to do is gobble it right down. I would suggest pairing this with fresh, uncooked veggies, such as a mayo-free coleslaw or a simple salad.

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Malaysian Beef
serves 4

2.5 lbs chuck roast, cut into bite-sized pieces

for the spice paste:
4–6 dried chilis, such as chiles de arbol
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 small shallots, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
pinch of salt

3 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cardamom pods

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cans coconut milk
1.5 tsp salt

First, make the spice paste. Using a Cuisinart (or a mortar and pestle), grind/mince the chilis, ginger, turmeric, shallots, and garlic together. Add a little water to make the paste come together, if necessary.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and the spice paste. Cook for 3–5 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until any water in the paste has evaporated. Stir in the star anise, cinnamon sticks, and cardamom pods. Add the meat and stir to spread out the spice paste evenly. Pour in the coconut milk and mix, so as to spread the spice paste more thoroughly. Bring to a gentle simmer (you will probably be using the lowest heat possible) and cook for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so.

Turn the heat up to medium and, stirring frequently, cook until the coconut milk has been entirely soaked into the meat. The meat will become dark brown, and the only liquid remaining will be fat. Drain the fat if you should so desire, or simply use a slotted spoon to serve.

Serve over warm jasmine rice (or basmati rice). For extra flavor, remove a bit of the spicy coconut milk from the meat before you turn the heat up to medium and add it to the rice while it steams.

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