Sunday Eggs

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Most of the actors in Marco Polo eat a lot of eggs and chicken breasts — a high protein, low fat diet that helps them grow big muscles and look ripped, I was told.  That made me think of the Disney cartoon character Gaston in Beauty and Beast.  The kitchen is so used to actors eating lots of eggs that when I order my 5-minute boiled eggs in the morning, they come in fours unless I specifically ask for only one or two.  Claudia Kim, who plays Khutulun in the show, would eat six eggs in one go. She has been training to transform her slender willowy physique into one that is taut and muscular.  Unfortunate for me, I never get to train with them, because my character doesn’t move much at all.  I remember getting excited over a long tracking shot of me walking briskly as I talked — the biggest action I had in the entire season.  Needless to say, I don’t need to eat eggs the way they do.

But I love eggs.  The first few times the kitchen delivered 4 boiled eggs for breakfast, I actually ate them.  After a while, I stopped eating so many because I didn’t want to have clogged arteries and die of a heart attack.  Since I began taking Pilate lessons last week, I felt that I deserved some eggs for Sunday morning.  I made a Malaysian omelette for breakfast.  And when I saw a leftover boiled egg and some leftover black rice in the fridge, I made an egg prawn rice stack for lunch. It was fun to make the leftover into something new.

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Malaysian Omelette

Ingredients:

3 medium eggs

2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon coconut milk (full fat) or milk of choice

2 small Thai onion or shallots, thinly sliced

2 stocks spring onion or green onion

2 to 4 chili peppers or red and green jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced

1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 tablespoon or more cooking oil

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Preparation:

Beat eggs with salt and coconut milk

Heat oil in a non-stick pan on medium high heat. Stir fry the Thai onion, spring onion, peppers until aromatic. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and turn the stove to medium. Let it cook for a minute or two.  When the omelette is set at the bottom, but still a little runny on top, fold it in three and turn off stove.

Serve with shrimp sambal sauce. 

Note:

Sambal is a Malaysian spicy sauce that can go with almost any food.  You can substitute with other spicy sauce of your choice if you can’t find it near you.

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Egg Prawn Stack

Ingredients for each stack:

1 hard boiled egg

1 tablespoon seeded and cubed English or Japanese cucumber

4 prawns, poached

2 to 3 tablespoon cooked black rice or other rice of choice

A dash or two of rice vinegar

Garnish with chives, sliced chili and sesame seeds

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Ingredients for sauce:

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon 100% pure dark sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 bird’s eye chili pepper, chopped

1/2 teaspoon chopped chives or spring onion

Mix more sauce if you are making more stacks

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Preparation:

Chop the cook prawns and set aside.

Chop boil egg(s) and mix with a dash of white pepper powder, a pinch of salt and a dash of rice vinegar.  You can also add 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise to each egg, and serve the stack with a mayo based sauce. But I decided against mayonnaise for obvious reasons.

Rinse the cup that you will use as a mold and do not dry it. Add cubed cucumber, then chopped egg mixture, then the prawns and finally the rice.  Press the rice down to pack the stack firm but not too tight.

Cover the plate with a small plate and flip it.  If the food sticks to the cup, use a knife to run around the edge to loosen it a bit.

Garnish with chopped spring onion, chili and sesame seeds.

Serve the stack with the sauce.

My Amazing Work Lunch

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I had a long day at the studio today — starting at 6:40am and getting home at 8pm.  There will be a lot of dialogue to memorize for tomorrow, so I will make this a short post.  I fear wordy scenes and much prefer the way my character was last season — a taciturn presence.  English is not my mother tongue.  Though I’m fluent in it, it is an acquired fluency.  I love acting — and having done it for four decades, it is almost second nature — but now and then I can still be stumped by English dialogue. 

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from Marco Polo season 1

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Since I didn’t have time to cook today, I will share with you my delicious lunch from Marco Polo kitchen.  We broke for lunch a few hours later than scheduled (again), but the food stayed miraculously fresh.  And these dishes could be enjoyed either warm or cold.  Our chef Duyen is beginning to know my taste buds.  And from the growing quantity of the food, she must have also learned of my great appetite.  The soba noodle salad with prawns and tempeh was the kind of healthy lunch I would make for myself and my family at home.  And I will most certainly get the recipes for the raw flax & chia seeds crackers with artichoke dip and sun dried tomato cashew dip.  The semi-sweet no-bake berry-nut mousse cake is also a healthy dessert I will try to make myself.

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There are many more types and choices of foods at the buffet lunch line, but I love to just walk into my dressing room like the hungry wolf, and be surprised and spoiled. 

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Pork Knuckle & Other Important Things in Slovakia

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I felt a little tense as we were about to film my last scene of Marco Polo season 2 — an emotional scene of great significance for the character of Chabi.  Is there a different way to express what’s written in the script?  Will I be able to deliver it if I could imagine an alternative?  The thoughts of my own limitations as a performer threatened to surface and defeat my confidence.  As I walked around trying to find a quiet and private space to concentrate, I saw Max — the 11-year-old son of my makeup artist from Kazakstan — gazing at the magnificent High Tatra Mountains in a reverie. 

The sight of this little boy transfixed by the immensities of nature took my breath away.  I stood there watching him, forgetting my own inadequacy for a moment.  Then Max returned from his trance and noticed me. He declared in a whisper, “It is so beautiful.”   I don’t think I have ever met another child with such a sense of wonderment in front of nature.  Mine, who have remarkable attributes of their own, are quite unmoved by nature, especially when there are insects crawling and flying around them. 

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Max shifted his mood suddenly as only a child could and invited me to a game of Uno.  I said I couldn’t play right now because I would have to cry in 15 minutes.  He looked at me with sympathy for a second and then I saw a twinkle in his eyes, which were wise beyond years, “Can I tell you a secret?”  I nodded.  “If you open your mouth wide and yawn like this,” Max demonstrated as he continued, “your eyes will get teary.”  I laughed out loud, imagining the director’s face watching me from the monitor as I yawn on camera at the most inopportune time.

As I spent the most casual and simple moments with Max, my worries and self-doubt dissipated. I could now see the majestic beauty surrounding me — the mountains, the waterfall, the lake, the wild flowers, the sky — and feel dissolved in something great and complete. 

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I was able to return to my instinct and trust it to bring me to shore from the stormy sea that was my own mind.  According to the director and the producers, my fellow actor Zhu Zhu and I “nailed the scene.”  I guess we deserved the huge pork knuckle that we had for dinner in a local restaurant called Humno. It was slightly cured and smoked.  And utterly “porkelicious.”

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My scene partner Zhu Zhu and our pork knuckle.

Beauty and Love in Budapest

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After two weeks of eating in the restaurants, I finally moved back to the apartment where there is a kitchen.  I invited a couple of friends over and cooked a ton of vegetables which are usually lacking when eating in restaurants in Budapest. The tomato-egg stir-fry that I made — the most basic comfort food during my Shanghai childhood — finally alleviated my craving for home cooked food.

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After dinner, we went to an organ concert at the St. Stephen’s Basilica.  I had never before heard Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor through such magnificently booming organ pipes. The vibration shook my bones.  I was awestruck.

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We were on our way to get a post concert drink when serendipity had us run into some members of our cast and crew who were having a birthday celebration for Michelle Yeoh at a restaurant.  The ex Bond girl is playing a kick ass fighting nun in Marco Polo. 

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Michelle’s Hungarian friend knew the restaurant chef, who prepared for us sumptuous dishes that were not on the menu: minced pork stuffed paprika, beef stew, ratatouille with mixed peppers… My second dinner was an absolute feast. 

I don’t remember who started it, but after a few bottles of wine (and three sips of limoncello for me), we began taking turns to define the two most over used words with the most expansive meanings: beauty and love

Michelle Yeoh’s assistant said to Michelle, “Beauty is Michelle.”  No wonder she had worked for Michelle for 11 years.

“Beauty is what arrests you for reasons you can’t quite articulate — it’s unreasonable,” said Tim Yip, our costume designer.

“It is the purgation of superfluities,” someone quoted Michelangelo.

“Yes, it must be simple.”

“And everlasting.”

“But beauty is fleeting.”

The discussion went on and on, and no one could completely agree with the other because what lends beauty its luster is precisely this ineffable quality that escapes analysis and speaks to the imagination.

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Two years ago with Peter in Budapest on family vacation

Then we came to the definition of love, which is so all-encompassing and amorphous at the same time that anything we said paled in comparison to what we intuited it to be.  Looking back, we sounded down right corny, but we all took a moment to think about love — each carrying a private memory or longing that tugged at his heartstrings.  I immediately thought of my children, my husband and my parents, who are all far away but rooted deeply in my heart as I am rooted in theirs. 

“Body and Soul.”

“Something to die for.”

“Something to live for.”

We interjected between bites and sips, laughing at each other’s mawkish declarations.

“Love is what I’m feeling right now,” John Fusco concluded with a big smile, looking at all of us who had gathered here because he created Marco Polo.

It is mysterious and wonderful how fate brought us here — around a dining table on a cobblestoned sidewalk in Budapest from different continents sharing food, wine and friendship, contemplating beauty and love. 

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With John after dinner. St. Stephen’s Basilica in the background.