Finding my heritage in the kitchen
I grew up eating delicious home cooked traditional Chinese food every meal, and never realized how much it shaped my palette until I got to college and was stuck eating dining hall food. With every winter break spent at home, I discovered a new appreciation for every one of my parents' signature dishes that I had taken for granted growing up. Let me tell you, biting into a fresh tongue-burning egg roll fried perfectly golden brown to a crisp is an unparalleled feeling, that couldn't be recreated from my dorm room kitchen. Throughout college, I'd tried my hand at recreating some of the very simple dishes I remembered eating as a kid, and quickly learned that traditional Chinese cooking required many untranslatable sauces that my white roommates just did not have in the fridge. After a few attempts, I stuck with the tried and true mediocre American food that is chicken breasts & broccoli, and ate the majority of my meals at my sorority.
It wasn't until recently that I decided to give it another go, and loaded up the pantry with soy sauce not from Trader Joe's, and white pepper rather than black (in addition to aforementioned untranslatable sauces). Thanks to all the newfound time at home, I've been able to delve deep into the Chinese cooking corners of Youtube and emergency Facetime my mom asking if I used the right amount of bok choy to recreate her wonton recipe (the answer is yes, but I used too much water and bought the wrong type of dumpling wrappers, and forgot the white pepper. So close, yet so far).
Still, I feel a heightened responsibility to learn how to cook food like my parents because I realize how much it shaped my understanding of food, culture, and life at home. With each attempt at making a recipe from home, it feels like no matter how much I messed it up, I can still taste a bit of home and a bit of my heritage in it.
I've been keeping track of all the fun recipes I've tried on Notion, from ones I was taught during my recent visits home, to my favorite dishes from other cuisines I've ordered on repeat at restaurants.
These are tried and true recipes that I think are hard to mess up and always hit the spot for me:
Kimchi fried rice - https://mykoreankitchen.com/kimchi-fried-rice/
I like to use pork belly instead of bacon, and usually will sub in enoki mushrooms for spinach, extra cabbage, or pretty much whatever other veggies I have on hand. The key is the fried egg on top :)
Mapo tofu - https://thewoksoflife.com/ma-po-tofu-real-deal/
I love mapo tofu because it's so comforting to slurp down with rice with just a little kick from the spice, and feels healthy cause it's mostlyyyy tofu xD I don't have sichuan peppercorns, but I usually use good 'ol Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp (iykyk) and a mapo sauce from Lee Kum Kee and it gets the job done.
My goal post quarantine is to have a recipe book of all the things I've tried and continue cooking them even when I have less free time at home. I'm by no means a good cook, but it's really fun and rewarding for me to make the foods I'm craving or love to get at restaurants.😋