Sparky & Reba Eat the World: Journey through Asia

As we unceremoniously crested into 2023, Sparky and I realized it would mark two decades of us. And that called for something special, memorable. But what?

We are currently living on a single income (my here and there contract work is unreliable at best) brought in by Sparky, and with the cost of life in general and the high price to keep me alive, so there is no such thing as “extra” or savings. Right now.

So, no travel. No wicked cool destination to celebrate twenty years together. No weekend getaway. Nothing. It isn’t in the cards (or bank accounts) right now. HRMPF!

After serious thought we committed to a date night in every month. A delicious adventure right in our own home. But with a twist! It wouldn’t be like our previous nights in or culinary adventures. No, this had to be special.

The answer was Sparky and Reba Eat the World 2023!

Each month, we will visit a region or collection of countries and explore their traditional dishes by cooking them ourselves. We will plan our menu together, shop for ingredients, and spend our date preparing the meal.

By committing to this, we will spend more accumulative time together as we plan out and then enjoy the date.

This January we enjoyed Asian-inspired cuisine and old kung-fu movies.

New-to-us Things

I love to cook and feed people, Sparky loves to eat (as I do sometimes too).

It’s a perfect pairing!

In our twenty years together, we have had the opportunity to explore different food and drink without traveling far at all. Years of living in Toronto afforded us the chance to taste our way through its various neighbourhoods.

Both of us enjoy trying new things, Sparky especially. And especially if it has heat!

I have to proceed with a little more caution, not just because I live with type 1 diabetes, but I also live with IBS and a litany of gut things (some on-going and undiagnosed).

Speaking of diabetes, in the middle of prep work my insulin pump alarm went off signalling the need for a change. Nothing like a site change in the middle of date night!

Sparky is totally immune to it. After all these years a site change on date night has become the norm.

Also, while on the topic, we do a lot of at-home cooking and make a lot of our own condiments and things because of diabetes. Not just my type 1, but Sparky’s type 2. We find knowing exactly what and how much is in the things we eat sets us up for better management.

There are a number of apps and websites you can visit to input your recipe ingredients along with their quantities and receive nutritional information for the meal you are making.

We were pretty stoked to try out some new recipes though there were two moments that did give us some pause: the number of green onions in the meatballs and the amount of fish sauce in the beef recipes.

Both Sparky and I love onions, so that wasn’t the issue – there just seemed like a holy heckin’ lot of them but it totally worked out in the end. The meatballs were so good and the onions necessary.


The fish sauce on the other hand, (welp!) I had never knowingly met, so cooking with it was also a first. And it was fine. Everything came together really nicely.

Part of this adventure is meant to expand our cupboard and find new ways to work new-to-us ingredients into our regular menu. A nice way of remembering all the places we went this year.

All that build up…

Because Sparky has an irregular work schedule, we usually find ourselves picking through the days to find time together: just the two of us. And sometimes the calendar doesn’t leave much.

The nice thing about this is we can pick the day we want our little date to happen and then slot in a moment here and there to grab ingredients or a quick coffee together to plan out the menu.

Working together to research dishes and gather what we needed was fun.

And it blurred the lines of the actual date.

Those little moments, they’re like date night foreplay – everything was done with intention. All the items procured together, selecting ingredients, discussing necessary pivots… all of that is folded in to the date itself.

And I think that’s really special.

Our Time Together

Sparky and I know each other pretty well.

So, we both knew how these date nights were going to play out: I would do most of the prep and actually cooking, Sparky would be on dish duty and beverages.

We have learned over the years to play to our strengths.

The reason we complement each other so well is because we are so different. There is no competition between us, no who does more. We do different things.

And sometimes those loads appear unbalanced, and it may be that they are. But it doesn’t stay like that for long. It truly is give and take.

We also do a lot of “checking in” with each other. What we humans can take on in a day is not a set amount. It fluctuates. Some days we can do more than we can on others.

There are days where either my mental or physical health can render me 2% (or less!) operational, leaving Sparky to take on that remaining 98% himself. And I feel bad, but I have to work through it because I would do it for him.

And he knows that.

Ticket to Eat!

Asian-inspired cuisine was the theme for our inaugural adventure, and the evening began with Vietnamese fresh rolls and Lagunitas IPA.

These were not a new menu item for us. In fact, fresh rolls make a regular appearance during the summer months. They do require a fair bit of prep work but they are worth every effort.

HACK: you can make your fresh rolls ahead of time – simply store in an air-tight container with a damp piece of paper towel.

Next up: almost everything else!

We couldn’t figure out how to break the dishes up, so we went all in with Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs from Japan, Korean Japchae, and Chinese Dumplings.

The meatballs were good but the real star was the sauce. Our kiddo wandered through and gave it taste, then requested the entire dish be made again when he is invited. No problem, kid!

I personally had high hopes for the Japchae (Korean glass noodle stir fry), especially the sweet potato noodles. But unfortunately, it fell short. For me, the texture of the noodles was tricky to overcome. Sparky just said, “we did it, we don’t need to do it again.”

Would I try it again? For sure, but it will be from a Korean chef.

The dumplings are another regular household item (in fact, I have about 40 of them down in my big freezer) – they can be purchased premade to cut prep time, though I like to make my own and control the fillings.

Finally, we tackled Weeping Tiger Beef from Thailand. It was so good. And a nice way to round out the meal, with the accompanying Lambrusco.

The night officially ended with a variety of Asian sweets for dessert and a viewing of Five Shaolin Masters.

Recipes and Bon Voyage!

We invite you to try some of the dishes from our first date night in of 2023, and maybe stamp your own culinary passport.

Sparky made us a cocktail while we prepped the cornucopia of vegetables for the meal. It was utterly delicious and the added fruit a nice pick-me-up in the middle of winter.

Sparky turned a little of what we had kicking around into this wonderfully refreshing bevvy perfect for sipping on while you prep!

The Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs were a highlight. Onions and all! We will definitely be making these again and would love to know if you do.

Note: if your meatballs seem too wet, pop them in the fridge while you preheat the oven.

And the last recipe we’re sharing is the Weeping Tiger Beef.

It was not just a delicious bite, but the recipe itself had us combining things together we may not have typically. I love the excitement (and nerves!) associated with a culinary twist, and this was that for us.

We have already started planning our next trip.

Next stop: FRANCE.

Stay tuned!

Reba & Sparky

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