My life with a pinch of sugar.

Isao: Bangkok’s famous Japanese fusion.

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Isao is a Japanese fusion restaurant in Bangkok that is tucked away in the middle of soi Sukhumvit 31. This cozy sushi place has a reputation that exceeds its small size. Tables are usually fully booked so if you happen to instantly crave for their famous sushi sandwich or Jackie roll, you can either prepare to queue up for 30 minutes to an hour (been there, done that) or take my advice and make a reservation. I promise you won’t regret it.
IMG_3117IMG_5725 Isao is famous for their sushi rolls. Their salads and a-la-carte menus are very good as well but every time I’m here I only have my eyes on the rolls. Even before seeing the menu, I knew right away what I wanted to order. Their signatures include the noteworthy sushi sandwich, which is spicy salmon and tuna sandwiched in-between crispy tempura rice, crisp and so full of flavors. Jackie, which is sushi roll shaped into a caterpillar filled with avocado, fish roe crispy tempura, and finally wrapped with rice, seaweed and meaty shrimp. My favorite is crunchy, which is similar to sushi sandwich but is served with a special Japanese sweet sauce. Another of my favorites is winter, which consisted of crab meat, carrots, radish and wrapped with Japanese cucumber topped with crisp daikon, a very light and refreshing mouthful
IMG_5715Now I have to warn you, last time I was here, I decided to order salad and fool myself into thinking that I was having a guilt-free lunch. However, I soon realize that just because a dish has the word “salad” in it doesn’t mean that it comes with leafy green lettuce or cabbage. Isao’s spicy salmon salad consists of spicy salmon, avocado, sesame seeds and special cream sauce, which is good nonetheless. If you’re looking for something greener, go for House salad, which comes with healthy looking greens and a homemade sweet and sour dressing, also another of my favorite!IMG_5722At Isao, there’s more than meets the eye: a special item not included in the menu. See..now I have your attention. Lava maki is consisted of avocado, crispy tempura, shrimp, topped with long sliced salmon and lava sauce. The dish comes with 5 pieces of maki. Next time you’re there, just ask one of the waitresses for the dish; they’ll know which “lava maki” you’re talking about.
IMG_5730All in all, this Japanese fusion restaurant is one of my most favorite sushi places in Bangkok. Everytime I leave, I always come back wanting for more. It’s not a bizaare thing for me to wake up one day craving myself some sandwich sushi and crispy crunchy rolls. If you come here, you might just know what I’m talking about. Gosh..just writing about it is making me drool.

Isao
5 Sukhumvit 31, Watthana, Bangkok 10110 
‎Tel: 02 258 0645

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Brown butter + Chocolate chips + Marshmallow Cookies

IMG_5621Christmas break is less than a month away. I’ve made a list of all the things that I’ve been wanting to bake for Christmas: a pear frangipane tart, sticky date pudding, and almond scone. I already have all the ingredients bought and ready. What seems to be missing is “time.” Everyday I feel like I’m stuck in this never-ending whirlpool of research paper, presentations and finals It just doesn’t seem right to have my head (and heart) focused on reading baking books when in reality I should be studying or starting on my unwritten field trip report due this Tuesday.

So imagine my enthusiasm when my one of my friends asks me to bake some sweet treats for our charity project at an all-girls orphanage. Projects and pleasure? I wouldn’t say no to that!

This chewy brown butter chocolate chip marshmallow cookie is happiness in a mouthful. It is best enjoyed freshly baked with a glass of warm milk.IMG_5573IMG_5601

Brown butter + Chocolate chips + Marshmallow Cookies
(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

makes 24 cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
226 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions

First, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.

To brown butter, use 113 g butter and melt it over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted completely, it will begin to foam and froth as it cooks. Swirl the pan occasionally, and keep an eye on the melted butter.  Once brown bits begin to form at the bottom of the pan and it’s the color of amber brown, immediately remove pan from the heat and pour browned butter (bits and all) into a small bowl. Do not leave butter in pan as it will get burnt. Allow butter to cool for 20 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream remaining 113g of butter with brown sugar.  Cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and molasses and beat until incorporated.

Once the brown butter has cooled , pour the butter (including brown bits) into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.  Add the granulated sugar and cream for 2 minutes, until well incorporated.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat for 1 minute more.

Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that everything is evenly mixed.  Add the flour mixture, all at once to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until the flour is just incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a spatula to fold in marshmallows and chocolate chips.

Spoon batter onto a piece or parchment paper or plastic wrap and wrap into a disk or cylinder and seal at both ends.  Allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. (I refrigerate it for two days.)

Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees f.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop dough by the two tablespoonful onto prepared sheets. Be sure to leave about 2-inches of space between each cookie.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes of until cookies are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.

Than Ying Restaurant: A Royal Thai Cuisine

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Even though I was born and raised in Thailand, there’s still so much about my own culture that seems so foreign. Thai Royal cuisine is one of them. I heard a lot about Kao chae and its uneven reputation. Some people seem to love it while some are not so convinced by the idea of eating rice soaked in jasmine water. To me, even though I’m not the biggest fan of eating soggy rice, I love the beautiful presentation and delectable side dishes that comes with it. I sometimes just omit the rice and eat the side dishes by themselves.

To find out more about Thai Royal cuisine, I gathered my team of hard-to-please critics, my very own mother and grandmother, and ventureed towards one of Bangkok’s oldest and well-known restaurants.

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Situated on Pramuan road, Than Ying is not located at the most ideal location. The restaurant is an old house with a tiny welcoming sign (so small that my mum had to abruptly break the car or we would have missed the entrance). The restaurant was founded 20 years ago by H.S.H. Princess Sulabh–Valleng Visuddhi ,who used to be head chef in the royal kitchen at Sukhothai Palace. The restaurant used to be on Soi Phipat but moved to its current location three years after it first opening.

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Walking through the entrance, I can feel every bit of my mum’s constant raves about table manners coming back to me. Maybe it’s because of all the photographs of the royal family placed around the restaurant. Suddenly I was reminded to sit up straight and chew with my mouth closed. The restaurant’s interior is beautifully decorated in an orthodox fashion with hardwood floor and glass chandeliers. The walls are lined with family portraits of people dressed in ceremonial costume. Sitting here it was like I’ve been transported in time when foods were served in most delicate manner on beautiful china and gold silverware. Not to mention, the waiters were super polite and they talked in the softest of tones.

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ImageFlipping through the menu. I really like how their menu includes lots of pictures. Everything look so tempting that I have to keep reminding myself that I’m only ordering for three. In the end, apart from the Khao Chae, I chose to order Khao Tung Nha Tang (ข้าวตังหน้าตั้ง), which is crispy rice crackers served with pork dipping sauce, Tod Mun Pla Krai (ทอดมันปลากราย), which is spicy fish cakes with sweet sauce, Yum Tua Plu (ยำถั่วพลู), which is Wing beans salad in sour and sweet sauce. All dishes came looking colorful and vibrant (and in generous portions I might add). Khao Tung Nha Tung  is definitely a must try. It is served with 7 rice crackers but the waiters will serve more, if asked, to eat with the remaining sauce. The Tod Mun Pla Krai is tasty but not too oily. I can definitely taste the herbs and the seasoning in the fish cakes and it pairs so well with the sweet sauce. As for the Yum Tua Ploo, it is one of my most favorite Thai dishes. The restaurants’s version is decent but I prefer my mum’s homecooked rendition of the dish, which is truly my all time favorite.

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Now let’s talk about the Khao Chae. Khao Chae is composed of many side dishes plated on miniature pedestals and rice soaked in jasmine water,  all of which are placed on an exquisite tray. Here at Than Ying there are 5 different side dishes.

1. Luk Kapi (ลูกกะปิ) Shrimp paste seasoned with shallots, ginger and garlic, rolled into a ball and fried to golden perfection

2. Horm Daeng Todd with Kapi (หอมแดงทอด) Shallots covered in Kapi and and fried until crispy.

3. Prik Yuak Yud Sai (พริกหยวกยัดใส้) Sweet pepper stuffed with minced pork and wraped with intricate fried egg layer.

4. Mhoo Foi (หมูฝอย) Shredded sweet pork coated with palm sugar and fish sauce before being deep fried.

5. Chai Poh Pad Kai (ไช้โป๊วผัดใข่) Chinese turnip, sweetened and stir fried with egg.

All of these are eaten with the jasmine rice, which is very fragrant and overall adds a delicate texture to the taste. Mum and Grandma didn’t really like the taste of Khao Chae, their taste preferences are more on the spicy side and would prefer something with a little chilli in it. As for me, I think that eating Khao Chae is all about the experience. Even if there are far more delectable Thai cuisines out there, the beautiful arrangement of dishes and the extricate carving of vegetable garnishings of Khao Chae’s presentation, adds to its the overall taste.

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For dessert, I ordered Gluay Cheum (กล้วยเชื่อม) which is sweetened banana with coconut milk ice-cream and Fuk Tong Cheum (ฟักทองเชื่อม) which is sweetened pumpkin with coconut milk icecream. I personally love the sweetened pumpkin. It was chewy and sweet and goes very well with the creaminess of the coconut.

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Than Ying restaurant opens from 11:30-22:00 daily. It is located on Pramuan Road and is accessible by car (parking space available) or is 5 minutes walking distance from Surasak BTS station.

Khao Chae set must be called to order one day in advance.

Than Ying Restaurant
Tel (66) 02-236-4361, (66) 02-235-0371
Fax (66) 02-635-0113

Almond crumble and coconut muffin

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There’s just something about baking that I love. I don’t know if it’s the sweet fragrance of melted chocolate, the beauty of creaming butter and sugar, or the fun in snacking on whatever there is I can get my hands on. Whatever it is, I just love it. Despite a full time enrollment in a psychology course at my university, with loads of projects due that are screaming for my attention, I still wouldn’t give up my very own Sunday when I’m crammed in my tiny little kitchen, lost and unreachable to the world.

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Yet, judging from the overwhelming pile of work that is starting to form, I think it’s about time I get my priorities straight. And so, I vowed to dedicate this whole day to studying. I promised myself that I’ll do some revision, prepare for my English presentation and watch some movies for my Industrial Psychology class.

30 minutes into my revision.. I once again found myself in the kitchen with hands greased in butter and hair cached in sugar.

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It’s settled. My priorities are straight. Today I’m experimenting with muffins. This type of quick breads is my favorite go-to breakfast. It’s easy to bake and simply to die for when paired with a good cup of coffee. Some people prefer their muffins moist and light, I like mine wholesome and good to the grains. And just because I happen to have spelt flour, desiccated coconut and a bag of almonds in my pantry, those will be the shinning stars of my recipe.

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To be honest I experimented with this recipe twice. The first time I tried baking it, I could barely trace any hint of coconut. I guess the other ingredients just outshined it and so I ended up adding twice more the second time round. The result is mouthwatering. The additional half a cup of dessicated coconut is just right. Not too over empowering nor minimizing, And before putting them in the oven, I sprinkled the batter over with some almond crumble for a flaky crunch to give the muffins an extra texture.

This almond crumble and coconut muffin recipe is full of nuttiness. It’s great for a breakfast option and even better as an afternoon snack with “a cuppa tea”  🙂

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Almond crumble and coconut muffins
(Adapted from Baking: From my homes to yours, by Dorie Greenspan.)
makes 12

Crumble topping
80g all purpose flour
80g ground almonds
80g sugar
80g ice-cold butter

Muffin
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup spelt flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs
113 g butter, melted and cooled
1 1/4 cup diced almonds

To make crumble topping
1. Combine all purpose flour, ground almonds, granulated sugar and cut in ice-cold butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

To make muffins
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Spray 12 muffin molds with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together all purpose flour, spelt flour, desiccated coconut, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set aside.
3. In another bowl, whisk together butter milk, honey, eggs and melted butter.
4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk until just well combined.
5. Stir in any dried fruits or nuts (optional).
6. Divide batter evenly into each muffin mold.
7. Bake for 18-20 minutes (mine took 18 mins) or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
8.Transfer pan to rack and let cool for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove from pan and left on rack to cool completely.

Yaowarat: Two hungry souls’ search for food.

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Sunday is guilt-free day.  It’s when my mum and I decide to make an exception to our never-ending diet and fill our tummies with whatever we want to eat… and what better place to start than at the heart of a foodie’s paradise.

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One word when I think of Yaowarat? Food. Good old local street food. The kinds that are enjoyed by the side walk fragranced by hot air and car fumes, seasoned and broiled by sweaty and (usually) grumpy faced cooks. The complete taste of Bangkok’s very own China town. Today, because of the ongoing Gin Je Festival in Bangkok, Yaowarat is flooded by a sea of hungry vegans. The streets that are usually emptied during midday are lined up with food carts and restaurants selling non-diary and faux-meat products. Theoretically, “non-dairy” and “faux-meat” are two words that sound as unappetizing as it could possibly get. Who would have thought that these meat analogues, which are comprised of tofu, soy protein and mushroom, could work its magic and taste just like pork and chicken meat?

IMG_4691IMG_4696IMG_46985 minutes into our arrival and I’m already in desperate need to fill up my empty stomach. My mum and I end up buying mixed vegetable fried rice dumpling from one of the food tents in front of our first stop, the Dragon temple, for a quick bite. Honestly, I don’t think anything fried could pretty much go wrong, the outer layer of the dumpling is crisp and chewy from the rice flour and even though the portion of the filling is meager, it still tastes pretty good. Other options nearby are golden fried noodles with bamboo shoot, carrots and Chinese kale (ราดหน้า) or red bean and black sesame Purée (ถั่วแดง/เผือก กวน) for dessert.

IMG_4705IMG_4715As we move on to our next destination, my black hole of a stomach isn’t yet satisfied. Luckily, we come upon a small restaurant within the Old Market, called Hong Kong Noodles, that is pretty packed and so we assume that it’s well worth trying. When we’re seated, my mum orders the Chinese rice noodle with tofu, shitake mushroom and coriander (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวหลอด) as well as the mushroom fried in sweet sauce and white sesame (เห็ดสวรรค์). A fine piece of advice? Do not order the mushroom. You’ll end up sucking on your fingers and eating every last piece left on the plate. I couldn’t put down my chopsticks. It’s that good and addicting.

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Our food adventure isn’t even close to ending. The old market is filled with stalls selling fresh fish, crab and shrimp. There’re also small restaurants, with names that precedes its exact location, constantly packed with hungry customers. Common dishes sold are noodles with fish, shrimp or pork balls, dumplings and steamed buns. There’re also shops selling all kinds of dried fruits and others selling fried proteins for vegetarian that pile up like heaps of copper colored pinballs.

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Walking out of the narrow street of the Old Market is like walking out of a food cave. My eyes need to momentarily readjust to the flash of sunlight.  Outside, many trolleys are selling pomegranate juice as well as roasted chestnuts. These trolleys are in such abundance that I think it’s pretty much the symbolic icon of Yaowarat. At noon, mum and I are still in our search for something to nibble. We settle at one of the restaurants by the main street, selling vegetarian side dishes served with jasmine rice and vegetarian noodles. We order Guay Jub (ก๋วยจั๊บ) to share, which is simply rice noodles, rolled in cylindrical form served in dark clear soup with tofu and coriander. To spice up the dish, I add some hot chili flakes and a tinge of vinegar. Da yum! Extra seasoning makes such a difference!

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As we’re getting full and strolling along the street aimlessly, stopping occasionally to buy some tofu or shrimp balls back home for dad, I have a sudden craving for something sweet. Besides, an eating trip is not complete without a little dessert to clear the palate. In the end, we settle at a small shop called Singapore Pochana, which serves pretty much the best Cendol (ลอดช่อง)- a green rice noodle dessert, serves with jackfruit and coconut cream- around the area.

IMG_4772 IMG_4774IMG_4781After slurping the very last drop of the coconut cream, I think I’m all set to survive without a meal for at least a day or two. My stomach feels so friggin tight and I’ve to resist every temptation to secretly unbutton my pants. However, the success of today’s spontaneous food adventure prompt me to keep finding more days in a week to splurge and spoil my appetite. After all everyone needs their own sweet escape once in a while 🙂

 

Spring Epicurean Market: Sunday morning into a food coma.

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Thailand’s seasonal system is pretty messed up. Everyday I feel like I’m either in a colossal sauna or a mega steam room since the weather simply alternates between hot/ humid and just plain wet. Last Sunday was no different. However, the happening of the Spring Epicurean Market on the green lawn of the Spring and Summer restaurant brought about a breath of fresh air. The market is held every last Sunday of the month with local vendors selling organic products ranging from home grown vegetables to freshly baked goods.

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To me, the word “market” in Thai paints a pretty graphic picture of a dimly lit and un-air-conditioned space with pigs and chickens on chopping blocks. And so I was quite excited when I heard that various farmers market are popping up around community spaces such as K-Village and Nawamin City Avenue offering a good venue for a family outing or a casual meet up with friends.

IMG_4419Yes, Sunday is that one day of the week when the streets are cleared and most people don’t get up until their internal alarm clock spontaneously decided to chime. But since I have always been a morning person, I made plans to meet my lovely friend, Bee, who was a doll to sacrifice her beauty sleep for an early morning outing with me and my family at 8:30.

When I arrived with my parents and met up with Bee, the lawn of the Spring and Summer restaurant had already turned into a playground where children ran around without a care in the world. Some people seemed to have arrived earlier and were enjoying their morning breakfast and coffee out in the open.

IMG_4464Judging from the look of things, I was pretty glad I skipped breakfast… Everything looked so good and appetizing that I literally jumped from vendor to vendor, tasting pretty much everything that I could get my hands on. It wasn’t long before my parents gave up on my enthusiasm and retreated into the restaurant to enjoy a cup of coffee in peace, leaving bee and me at our state of overexcitement.

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IMG_4430IMG_4465Bee and I went around different booths to take a peek (and an occasional tasting) of what was selling. The quinoa stuffed tofu and jasmine rice sushi from Spring restaurant was my favorite. It tasted so light and healthy…I think I could have eaten more than 10 if I weren’t so tempted to try out the foods from other stores. Bee and I also tried Joe Sloane BBQ’s grilled chorizo sausage with mango and applesauce on sourdough bread, which tasted absolutely delicious. One of the booths was also selling fruit popsicles, which was a hit for the kids, and the one next to it, from Appia restaurant, was selling mean looking eggplant lasagna.

IMG_4429Before leaving I made it a priority to check out Amatissimo café’s beautiful pastries and ended up buying their famous cronut (croissant + donut), macadamia nut sticky bun and almond croissant. Personally, I think their baked goods are just godsend… don’t know how they do it but seriously, how can bread tastes this good?

IMG_4457Altogether, the trip to the market is a great change to my usual Sundays. It was nice to see so many families out and about, enjoying good food and supporting local produces. I look forward to going back there next month and perhaps try out the healthy looking burrito or zucchini pancake from Absolute Fit Food..mmm.. or maybe the chocolate carrot cake that I’d been eyeing on… 😉

Boyy Café: Simplicity at its finest.

IMG_4402Midterms are killing me. Not because I’ve been studying too hard and can no longer force myself to read one more word about B.F Skinner or the significance of each brain part, but because I couldn’t have cared less about them. Still, I must give some credits to studying; it gives me the perfect excuse to hunt down small cafés to perch and unwind.

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My feeling of finding Boyy Café is similar to the enthusiasm of a kid who comes upon a hidden treasure. It is as if I’ve found a hidden gem that is tucked away behind one of Bangkok’s busiest night scenes. Boyy café is not your instant overnight hits. If it weren’t through word of mouth, I wouldn’t have known that amidst the trendy Fat Gut’z Saloon and Mugendai sushi bar exists a small coffee shop, which truly is a rare find.

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As the jazzy tune of Pink Martini’s “Sympathique “ and the buttery smell of almond croissant inflate the room, I’m pretty sure I’m at the pinnacle of bliss. At that moment, I could just imagine myself idling by the café’s outdoor picnic table on a lazy Sunday afternoon with my favorite novel in hand lost in time and space.

The café has a simple menu with home cooked dishes such as Spaghtti Putanesca and Shrimp and Avocado salad. I’m also swayed by their sandwiches options. However, since I’d already eaten, I’m craving for a little something sweet. The menu doesn’t include any pictures so I go along with my instinct and choose whatever it is that must be good enough to deserve the name of the store.

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Boyy Sundae looks oh so divine! As I dig down my spoon, making sure I’ve included all the delectable components in a mouthful, and take one big bite…I’m pretty sure I’ve tasted paradise. The dessert lives up to its reputation, 3 scoops of homemade vanilla bean ice cream topped with toasted peanuts and pretzels and finally drizzled with chewy and sticky caramel. Nuts, pretzels and caramel? Who wouldn’t be tempted by the sound of that?

I’ve taken a note to try out the café’s famous almond croissant and lychee iced-tea. But since I’m already so full and couldn’t take another bite, those options would have to wait till next time.

Until then … 🙂

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