Tag Archives: food

Handpulled Noodles: A Taste of Home

By Cassandra Liu

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

After every hard day, depressing event, or stressful moment, the first meal I turn to is one that has been passed down to me through many generations of my family. It is our family’s version of a classic Chinese noodle dish – handpulled noodles. We call it Lā Miàn, which literally translates to “pull noodles” in English. Paired with a vinegary, spicy dressing sauce, this dish is something that never fails to bring me comfort and even a sprinkle of happiness. 

Handmade noodles have an incredibly long and rich history. The oldest known origin of the noodles was traced to an area in Northwestern China and its recipe has diverged into countless variations with differing ingredients, noodle width length, and ways of making the noodles. This is how my family makes it:

Photo by Sarah Boyle on Unsplash

My family uses a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. We begin by adding water to flour with a ratio of 1 water to 2 flour. Then, add a pinch of salt to the mixture and knead until a rough dough is formed. Cover the mixture with either a damp towel or cling wrap and let the mixture rest for around 10 to 15 minutes so that the dough is more workable. After that short period of time, continue kneading the dough until it is smooth, which might take around 2 minutes. Be sure to not overwork the dough, or else the gluten will develop and the noodles will become too tough. After the dough is smooth, divide it into two pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll them out into a rectangle shape with about a 0.5 inch thickness. Coat a plate in oil, coat both sides of the rectangle dough in oil, and place the dough on the oiled plate. Cover the plate in cling wrap and let it rest at room temperature for an hour and a half.

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

Next, bring a pot of water to a boil. While the water is boiling, remove the dough from the oiled plate and cut the dough into 0.5 inch strips. Grab a strip and gently pull the ends in opposite directions. While pulling the strips apart, gently move your arms up and down and let the dough bounce against the tabletop, which helps the dough stretch out even more to your desired length. Drop the noodles into the boiling water and cook the noodles for 2 minutes, until the noodles are chewy and cooked through. Drizzle some sesame oil over the noodles to prevent them from sticking together while preparing the sauce. 

To make the sauce, mince garlic, ginger, and scallions. Place the chopped vegetables over the noodles along with some red pepper flakes. Heat up some neutral oil in a pan and pour over the chopped vegetables. Listen to and savor the sound as the hot oil fries the garnish. Add soy sauce and black vinegar to taste and enjoy!

Photo by No Revisions on Unsplash

Summer or winter, rain or shine, this dish is something that my family eats at least once every two weeks. Pair it with some boiled vegetables, and you have yourself a hearty and delicious meal! Whenever I’m feeling homesick, I come back to these noodles and I’m immediately taken right back to my family. 

Featured Image by Önder Örtel on Unsplash

Cassandra is a recent graduate who studied Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She grew up in the Bay Area and speaks Mandarin fluently, a language she uses to interact with her parents and grandparents. On campus, she was involved in Trojan Shelter, Wazo Connect, and worked as a research assistant in the Brain and Music Lab at the USC Brain and Creativity Institute, among other things. In her free time, Cassandra enjoys cooking, playing music with her friends, and exploring the best food places in LA.

Living in the Midwest: How Does it Differ from the West Coast?

By Tara Khan

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Whenever I tell people that I’m from North Dakota, I usually get a ton of questions. “Woah! What do people do for fun there?” or “Where even is that?” are the most typical ones. I was born and raised in Fargo, a town in North Dakota less than 4 hours away from the Canadian border. A few years ago, my family moved to the West Coast. After living here for a while, I’ve noticed there are many differences between the two regions, and so I’ve come to understand why people who aren’t from the Midwest might have so many questions about it. I’ve broken these differences down into 5 categories here in order to highlight what life is like living in the Midwest!

Weather: The most obvious difference between the Midwest and the West Coast is the weather. Most places in the Midwest have four seasons, with winters that are harsh and cold, and summers that are milder and warmer. However, no matter where you live in the Midwest you are pretty much guaranteed to get snow. In Fargo, there’s always snow on the ground throughout the winter months. One year, I remember it snowing as late as May and as early as October. Temperatures also regularly reach sub-zero, and even into the -20s in Fahrenheit sometimes in January. In the summers, temperatures would generally stay in the 80s and low 90s, never really reaching over 100F.

Photo by Ethan Hu on Unsplash

Food: In terms of food, places in the Midwest don’t have quite as much variety as the West Coast, as the population sizes tend to not be quite as large. When I lived in Fargo, there were only 2-3 options for things like sushi or Chinese food. People there tend to eat home cooked meals; casseroles and hot dishes are a Midwestern staple. At potlucks or holiday parties, there are sometimes traditional foods served. Due to North Dakota’s large Norwegian population, lefse, a type of flatbread, is a food I saw at most celebrations. I even helped my friend’s family prepare it one year for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Activities: Many midwestern families have “lake homes” which they visit on the weekends. People enjoy going fishing, having cookouts, or having bonfires. During the winter months, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are quite popular. Ice hockey is also a sport that some children play growing up. For some families, Sundays and Wednesdays are considered “church day” and “church night.” Many businesses, particularly local ones, close on Sundays. When I was in school growing up, we would usually not have after school activities on Wednesdays.

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

People: “Midwest nice” is a common term used to describe midwestern people. People are generally very friendly and neighborly. During the winter, it’s not uncommon to see neighbors shoveling each other’s driveways or helping each out out with various things, and at public places such as the grocery store, people will frequently stop to chat with each other. Since living on the West Coast, I have noticed that people still have a friendly demeanor but aren’t quite as talkative as the people in the Midwest.


Transportation/lifestyle: Cars are the main method of transportation throughout the Midwest, as there are not a lot of established large public transportation systems. Walking and biking aren’t popular options due to the harsh winters. The age to obtain a license varies by State, but it is generally lower than in other regions of the country. In North Dakota, you can obtain a learner’s permit at age 14, and a license at age 15. The age for getting a job is also 14, though there are child labor laws in place to protect those under 16.

Photo by Marie-Michèle Bouchard on Unsplash

Whether or not you ever live in the Midwest, I think it definitely worth visiting at least once, especially during the winter. The weather is pretty much like how it is in the movies: freezing cold, but magical. Just make sure to dress warm and you will get to enjoy experiencing some home cooked Midwestern food and friendly people!

Featured Image by Nathan Fertig on Unsplash

Tara is a freshman majoring in Biomedical Engineering on the pre-med track. She grew up in Fargo, North Dakota and Las Vegas, Nevada. She speaks English, Thai, and elementary level Spanish. Tara is involved in Taekwondo Club at USC. In her free time, she likes to solve Rubik’s cubes, play guitar and ukulele, and play with her dog, Tofu. Tara also loves traveling and learning about different cultures, especially through food! One of her favorite things about living in LA is the large amount of food options available; she is always willing to give great restaurant recommendations.

Navigating American Service Culture: to tip or not to tip?

By Tara Khan

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[2.5 minute read]

When you walk into a store in the United States, you are usually met with a friendly greeting such as, “Welcome!” or “Hi, how are you today?”. Typically, these greetings tend to be followed by a question such as “How can I help you?” or “What would you like?”. Employees will ask these questions to give you a more positive shopping or dining experience. In exchange for their friendly service, service industry workers usually receive some type of extra compensation in addition to their standard pay. This compensation either comes directly from you, the consumer, in the form of a tip, or from the business in the form of commission. It can be confusing to know when and where you’re expected to tip in the U.S., so here are some helpful examples of when tipping is recommended or not recommended.

clear glass jar
Photo by Sam Dan Truong on Unsplash

Add a tip! The following are situations where tipping is strongly recommended or encouraged:

  1. Restaurants: When dining in at full-service restaurants, tipping is customary. The amount you tip your waiter/waitress is usually proportional to how much your check is and how good the service was. If you thought the service was good, the general rule is to tip 15-20% of your check, pre-tax. A tip of 10% or below usually indicates that the service was poor, while a tip of 25% or more indicates the service was excellent. You can leave your tip in cash, but if you want to pay with a card, there is usually a place to add a tip on the receipt that you sign. Not tipping at a dine-in restaurant is typically considered to be rude, so always factor in the tip into your eating out budget!
  2. Counter service/fast food: Unlike at dine-in restaurants, counter service establishments, such as fast-food restaurants or coffee shops, typically make tipping optional. Usually, you can find a tip jar next to the cashier for cash tips. There might also be an option to add a tip on the credit card machine if you pay by card. If you are getting a $5-$10 item, a tip of $1-2 is usually acceptable, and is by no means required. Tipping at counter service establishments is an added bonus for the employees, and just something nice to do if you really enjoyed the service!
  3. Hair salons/nail salons: Tipping at beauty salons, such as hair and nail salons, is also optional. However, it is highly encouraged if you like the final product. The tip is usually 18-20%, but it can vary depending on how much time was taken to do the service as well as the number of services performed.
  4. Rideshare: Depending on the length of your ride, tipping on rideshare services, such as Uber or Lyft, may be appropriate. Generally, tipping about 10% of your ride price is acceptable, but not something you have to do all the time.
green coupe scale model
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Continue reading Navigating American Service Culture: to tip or not to tip?