Meet and Eat: Amanda Nichols, Serious Eats Intern


[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Name: Amanda "Mandy" Nichols
Location: New York
Occupation: NYU Student
Twitter: mandynichols92

Guilty pleasures? My ultimate study munchies are 5-spice flavored sunflower seeds or some other salty crunchy goodies like home-popped popcorn. As for sweets, I love pretty much anything with sweet red (adzuki) bean paste. I've even mixed it into ricotta and cream cheese for a yummy bagel schmear.

Describe your perfect meal. This one depends so much on the scenery and company, but here are a few dream scenes I may or may not have woke up from gnawing on my pillow...

Sunny summer day: Picnic with friends and crusty grilled bread instead of plates. All around there'd be little dishes of chutneys, grilled and lightly seasoned vegetables, mushy roasted garlic - summertime toppings! For dessert, we'd have honey balsamic-grilled peaches with dollops of marscapone cheese.

On a rainy day I'd watch the downpour with tuna, eel, and egg sushi with jasmine tea, miso-braised eggplant, seaweed salad, and black sesame mochi.

In the winter, throw me in an indoor food market to soak up the sights, sounds and smells with a rich shiitake hot pot and tea.

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

What food won't you eat? I apologize sandwich lords, but I please hold the mayo.

What would you like to try but haven't yet? I'm up for anything! I've heard some good things about alligator.

Favorite food person? Alton Brown. If I'm ever trapped on a deserted island (or in the space station), he's the guy I want to build crazy cooking contraptions with.

When did you first realize you were a serious eater? My family used to spend summer weekends at the city farmers' market in Kansas City. Me and my sister used to skip around with bags of kettle corn, eagerly searching for the next available sample stand. Once we moved to Japan, food became one of the easiest ways for me to connect to a place I expected to be filled with robots. I can smell the takoyaki stands now...

What do your family and friends think of your food obsessions? My family created this monster, so they've accepted it. Many of my friends "feed" the monster by suffering through chatter about flavor and food politics long enough to sample its creations.

Favorite food sites or blogs? I love scrolling through a bunch, particularly ones like The Wednesday Chef and Smitten Kitchen with clean designs, solid photography and a hearty sampling of tips or recipes. Bonus points if there's a science twist!

There's no one person I go to, depending on what I'm looking for and where I turn to a few friends or relatives, but otherwise the internet has my back.

And what's the best recommendation she's ever given you? My mom and I heard about this tiny place called The Latin Bistro in Missouri from one of the stand owners at our local farmers' market. Their Snapper (which I can't NOT order) convinced me that cooking something in a banana leaf is almost always a good idea.

What is your favorite meal of the day and where do you get it? For a special treat I'll go to St. Marks for Cha An's weekend lunch special Unagi Hitsumabushi Don, red bean butter toast, and of course some tea! If I go with a friend I could be there for hours (especially if we order goodies like green tea mochi or truffles).

1Do you ever cook? What's the best dish you make? I love it! When I moved in to my new room this semester and saw the gas-burning was magical. I love to experiment with what I have in the kitchen (partly because I'm one of those broke college students), or try out new recipes. My "best" tends to vary depending on who you talk to. Butterscotch pie is always a hit and I'm pretty proud of a blood-sweat-and-tears Mapo Dofu recipe. But the concoction that just screams "me" is a bowl of dashi-soy fluffy eggs with scallions, tomatoes and caramelized onions. Mmm-mm!