Norooz – A New Day!

Colin and I have been lucky enough to meet and befriend people of all different cultures. Coming from a Japanese and Vietnamese family, we both know a decent amount about Asian culture. However, we’re always looking to immerse ourselves in different cultures and learn customs and traditions that have been around for generations. This is one of the reasons why we enjoy traveling!

In my Master’s program, I met one of my good friends Shaghayegh (Sherry) who really bridged the gap between Asian and Persian cultures. She is purely of Iranian descent, but has an impressive knowledge of Asian culture. In fact, she speaks Japanese more fluently than Colin does! (And she even does so in the anime baby voice that makes the hairs on my arms stand up.) I’ve had a few Persian friends, but never really learned about the culture and traditions. When Sherry invited me over to her house for Norooz, I was like “helllll yeahhh.”

Norooz (meaning a new day) is the Persian/Iranian New Year celebrated on the first day of spring or vernal equinox and marks the first day of the month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendar. Norooz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Iran, Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin and the Balkans.

In Iran, it is customary to begin spring cleaning and preparations for setting up a decorative table called Haft Sin two to three weeks before Norooz. The extent of the decorations can vary, but the same basic essentials are typically used. Haft means seven and Sin is the Persian (Farsi) alphabet for the letter S, together meaning seven items that start with the letter S. Haft sin as a whole represents humans progression from the material world to the spiritual world through constant renewal and rebirth which is represented by Norooz or the first day of spring. These seven items include:

  1. Sabzeh: wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish, symbolizing rebirth
  2. Samanu: a sweet pudding made from wheat germ, symbolizing affluence
  3. Senjed: the dried fruit of the oleaster tree, symbolizing love
  4. Seer: garlic, symbolizing medicine
  5. Seeb: apple, symbolizing beauty and health, also heavenly fruit
  6. Somaq: sumac, a type of spice from the flowering plants in the genus Rhus, symbolizing the color of sunrise
  7. Serekh: vinegar, symbolizing age and patience

If one of the Sins is missing it can be replaced with:

  1. Sonbol: hyacinth flower, which grows in spring
  2. Sekkeh: coins, symbolizing prosperity and wealth

In addition to Sin there are also non-Sin items including:

  • Traditional Iranian sweets such as baklava
  • Dried nuts and fruits (ajeel)
  • Lit candles (enlighten and happiness)
  • A mirror (self reflection and introspection)
  • Decorated eggs (one for each member of the family, also representing fertility)
  • A bowl of water with goldfish (sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving)
  • A crystal bowl of water with an orange in it (the earth floating in space)
  • A book representing wisdom such as Zoroastrian’s Holy Book (the Avesta), Muslim’s Quran or Iranian poetry books (Shahnameh or Divine Hafez)

In Iran, Norooz is celebrated for the first 13 days of the first month of the year (Farvardin). On the first day, everyone in the family traditionally wears new clothes and gathers around the Haft Sin. Once the New Year begins, family members hug each other and wish each other a happy new year! The head of the family (typically the father) passes out Eidi; money hidden in the book of wisdom. Another custom of the first day is to eat sabzi mahi polo, a dish made of herbed rice and Caspian white fish. Throughout the 13 days of celebration, it is customary to visit relatives and friends, starting with the elders of the family. The number 13 is a bad luck number in Iranian Culture. Therefore, when the 13th day of Norooz arrives, “sizdah be dar” is celebrated and every family will go out in nature or have a picnic outdoors. Young girls will often tie a knot with the Sabzeh, wishing for a good partner. The Sabzeh is thrown in running water to protect the wishes from evil and bad luck. Jokes and pranks are played on sizdah be dar, similar to April Fool’s Day!

Learning about Persian culture was extremely fascinating and an honor to be part of, not to mention the incredible food! I was awestruck by the amount of detail and symbolism associated with each particular decoration. There were also a few similarities that paralleled Asian culture such as the Eidi and Li Xi (lucky money) given during Tet or Chinese New Year. We owe a big thanks to Sherry for teaching us about Norooz and letting us share everything we learned about her culture.

I hope that we can continue learning about other cultures through friends and traveling abroad. I find that even though various cultures seem drastically different at face value, they share many of the same core beliefs, such as the importance of family and respect. Let us know a little about your culture and your favorite traditions!

Korean Sauna Eggs

If you’ve ever watched a Korean drama, you may be familiar with these eggs, often enjoyed in Korean saunas. Korean Sauna eggs are light brown on the inside and have a deep, tasty roasted nut-like flavor. These eggs are the typical ones you find at your grocery store, but it’s the specific cooking process that makes them unique in color and taste! You can enjoy these eggs as a tasty snack or add it as a side dish to your next hearty meal.

Originally, these eggs were cooked over the steam produced by the sauna. I’m assuming a lot of you don’t have a sauna readily available (or at least one that you can cooks eggs in). If you do, let us know and we’ll be over ASAP!

Fun fact: These eggs are also known as Huevos Haminados due its origin in Medieval Spain and are popular in Jewish communities in the Middle East and Mediterranean. They are often served during Passover Seders (a ritual ceremony). Historically, these eggs were known as “7 hour eggs.”

Making the Korean Sauna Eggs was a near effortless process with our Instant Pot pressure cooker (IP). The eggs sit on a metal egg rack over the salt water mixture and are cooked for 2 hours. Instead of the white albumen (protein-rich) part of the egg, we get a well-tanned, rich, and tasty hardboiled egg. The yolk color remains more or less the same, but the texture is more creamy and rich in our opinion. And just like that your regular hardboiled eggs have undergone a total transformation. They could have their own television series: “Extreme Makeover: Korean Sauna Egg Edition!”

Fun fact: Did you know that the albumen (egg white) of eggs contains very little fat and cholesterol and a lot of protein. This makes egg whites a great option to get that extra protein in your diet.

We highly recommend making these Korean Sauna Eggs and we can promise that you’ve never tasted an egg like this before. We gave one of our Korean friends an egg to try and his review – “BOMB!” He’s normally not a man of few words, so he must have enjoyed (side note: I have never seen a whole egg disappear that quickly.) Another foodie friend said, “KOREAN SAUNA EGG SO GOOT!”

It seems like this recipe is a hit and a crowd pleaser for sure! Let us know if you try it and how you would describe the taste!

Nutritional Breakdown (per egg):

Calories: 70, Carbs: 0g, Fats: 5g, Proteins: 6g

Ingredients:

7-14 eggs at room temperature
2 tsp salt
2 cups of cold water

Steps:

1) Wash eggs thoroughly
2) Mix salt and water together and pour into inner pot of IP
3) Place eggs in egg rack
4) Flip valve to SEAL
5) Set IP to HIGH PRESSURE for 2 hours
6) Quick release the valve to VENT
7) Place eggs in cold/ice water
7) Peel and enjoy!

Disclaimer: We are not nutritionists. All of our information is based on experience, working with personal trainers, research and background knowledge from our education in the health field. Make sure to work with a nutritionist when deciding what foods and nutrients are best for your goals and overall health.

It’s Gonna Be a Gudapati

Her Perspective: 

Not many people can say they get to take engagement photos for their best friends… but I can! 

I met Annie back in 6th grade (19ish years ago) and she’s been one of my best friends since then. We went from taking sticky film photos at Kim’s parents’ house using her piano bench as a prop, to actual photo booth photos in the mall, Star Image photos, to photos in front of my parents’ yard to this. Needless to say it’s been a very memorable journey with this one.

I wish I still had some of our childhood photos to look back and laugh at, but it’s okay, we’ll always have the memories. 

When I saw the opportunity to take Annie and her fiancée, Sri’s engagement photos, I went for it! I didn’t want to miss out on documenting such an important event of her life with the man she loves.

We spent a few hours at his place in Fullerton, CA taking photos and doing a few outfit changes. It was so much fun because it made me nostalgic about our photo shoots from when we were kids except now our teeth are straighter, there’s a guy involved, and we have better photography equipment. 

Here are some of the photos from today’s shoot. It was an honor taking your photos Annie and Sri! Can’t wait to celebrate your wedding in May! #ItsGonnaBeAGudapati

– Lisa

Photo Shoot: Full Time Friends, Part Time Models

Her perspective:

I have always enjoyed taking photos whether it be on my Motorola Razr, point and shoot cameras, GoPro or iPhone. My husband and I started taking more and more photos throughout the years and we finally took the leap and invested in a Sony A7iii mirrorless camera with some great prime and zoom lenses.

We love taking scenic landscape photos when we travel back home to Hawai’i and recently ventured into portrait photography.

I asked two of my beautiful classmates, Amber and Christy if they would let me photograph them after finals and they agreed to be my first models! As dental school students, we live in our scrubs, so they were certainly excited to dress up and let their hair down.

We did the shoot at Sahuaro Ranch at golden hour. It was really a fun experience photographing them. To be fair, they made it super easy for me! They were able to show off their personalities and the strong bond they share with each other. Both Amber and Christy are perfect examples of strong, beautiful women in the healthcare field. I still have a lot to learn, but I really enjoyed the experience and looking forward to improving my craft!