October 25, 2010 § 1 Comment
After my last post, I still wanted to write more about eating with family and loving through food. Like I said, my mom cooks dinner every night for my family. She or my grandmother also used to cook me breakfast every morning before school. Most often, it would be steamed egg custard, 鸡蛋羹 (jīdàn gēng). Well, I guess this food is traditionally supposed to be steamed, but I would get the microwave version, since I was living in the future already, at that point. The egg custard isn’t sweet as its name seems to imply; it’s salty and savory and garnished with green onion. The way my mom made it, she would beat an egg in a ceramic bowl with a little less than equal volume of water. Then she would put it in the microwave until the custard was at this miraculous point of being just barely firm and drizzle soy sauce and sesame oil over it. Oh man! I would try to make it myself sometimes and always add the wrong amount of water, or microwave it for the wrong amount of time, or accidentally pour in way too much soy sauce. To my kid mind, this was magic every morning.
I rarely cook for my family because they always want to cook for me, and I’m afraid the food I cook is too not-Chinese for their taste. It’s a really silly fear because I know that they feel the same way about eating food with family as I do. A week ago, I cooked them a super simple meal. Just butternut squash soup with bread and salad. The bread was braided because I LOVE BRAIDING BREAD. (look at this video on a one strand braid!) And guess what! My mom came back home, looked at the bread baking in the oven and exclaimed to me, “BRAIDED BREAD IS MY FAVORITE!” She, my dad and my sister all kept commenting on how the soup tasted better than chicken broth and how my salad dressing was so much better than store bought salad dressing. And I kept thinking, hehehe.
October 24, 2010 § 1 Comment
There is something very special about sharing food with other people. Since we’re really into defining words here, let me define “companion” for you:
1: one that accompanies another : comrade, associate; also :one that keeps company with another 2 obsolete : rascal 3 a : one that is closely connected with something similarb : one employed to live with and serve another 4: a celestial body that appears close to another but that may or may not be associated with it in space
October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
When I was in high school, I hosted at a Chinese restaurant in the suburbs. The owner was this middle-aged Taiwanese man who my parents had known since they came to the U.S. as grad students. In the journal I kept at that time, I wrote that he reminded me of Mr. Krab from Spongebob Squarepants because he wore these big gold rings on his fingers and would count money with this kind of lustful look in his eyes. Plus he would constantly ask his employees, “Do you know how I run a successful Chinese restaurant?”
“I make sure that it’s really clean because people think that Chinese restaurants are dirty, so when they come to mine, they notice and want to come back.”
“I give kids free Shirley Temples so that later when they’re parents ask where they want to eat, they’ll want to come back to get those Shirley Temples.”
“I hire young Asian girls to work at the counter and make drinks.”
To him, food really wasn’t the thing that would separate his restaurant from the pack. He called himself the executive chef, but he never spent time in the kitchen and also never thought about his menu. He would just stand in the front of the house with me and the other girl who hosted there, sharing his wisdom and drinking soda. The kitchen staff was super capable; the head of the kitchen was the owner’s ‘silent partner’ and there were three other cooks who worked in the kitchen everyday. Everybody in the restaurant worked there every single day of the week except for me and the other host, who was also a high school student. They all spent more time at the restaurant than in their homes. The restaurant opened at 11:00am for lunch and closed at 10:00pm, and the cooks prepared lunch and dinner everday for everyone who worked there. Nothing they prepared was on the menu. It was always home-style Chinese food with cheap, weird cuts of meat and all kinds of Chinese vegetables. I remember eating cartilage a lot.
My mom cooks dinner every night for my family. When I was really young, my grandparents lived with us and cooked, but after they moved away, my mom began to cook for us. Until then, I didn’t even know that my mom could cook, but can she ever! Tonight she made eggplant with garlic sauce, daikon radish soup with mushrooms, tomatoes with eggs, stuffed wheat gluten packets and also a vegetable that’s called “cream cabbage” when it’s translated from Chinese. Whenever I eat dinner with my family, I stuff my face and say, “This is so good!” with my mouth full of food. It’s a really satisfying thing to do. And kind of cartoonish. My mom smiles and tells me to eat more, and puts food into my bowl with her chopsticks.
October 4, 2010 § Leave a comment
October 4, 2010 § Leave a comment
I just moved to Madrid last week. I’d been wanting to try the paella here since my arrival but didn’t since it usually includes meat. On Saturday I finally tried some! There was a party at La Tabacalera (a self-managed social center) in support of an agri-eco co-op, and they served vegan paella and pinchos (kebabs) made with homegrown organic veggies. It was delicious! So delicious that this evening I decided to make some of my own. It turned out really well! I’m going to continue to try out different ingredients and techniques; I’ll keep you posted.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth (I didn’t have any so I added salt, pepper, and a few spices to water)
2 cups rice
4 tomatoes, diced (I only had two, but I definitely would use more next time)
3 peppers, diced (again, I only had one, but the more, the merrier)
1 lemon, juice of
fresh parsley, chopped, to taste
seasoning–salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin, to taste
5 strands of saffron
Heat the oil in a paella pan and cook the onions and garlic for about 3 minutes, until translucent (careful not to burn the garlic). Add some of the seasoning. Put the broth in another pot to simmer. Add rice to paella pan and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for another 3 minutes. Then pour the simmering broth and saffron into the paella pan and cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat. When the liquid is almost completely absorbed and the rice is just a little firm, add the lemon juice and parsley. Continue to add the seasoning to taste until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Garnish with lemon wedges, tomato slices, and/or fresh parsley.
Disclaimer: I modified this recipe–I’m sure it’s not traditional. (Can vegan paella be traditional? Don’t think so.) But it is good!