Eastern Dishes

Huidan

 

I came to American with my mom and my brother when I was 10, to reunite with my dad. I was so little and I was so excited to move to another country. However, it wasn't until I came here that I realized I really miss home in China; I miss the food, the people, and the places. I've been here for 11 years and I have never went back to China because of time and financial reasons. Although I cannot visit the places and people in China, food allows me to stay connected to my hometown. Mom and dad always make dishes that they used to make in China. Their cooking is so amazing that they compensate my longing for authentic Chinese food in my motherland. Some of the materials for certain dishes are not found here, but the meaning and the ways of making the dishes make the food authentic. I interviewed my dad and videotaped him making dinner. My dad doesn't make dinner for us a lot because of work, but sometimes he

he would cook a dish or two even after he came back from work. Seeing his tiring back and face, I felt very warm and loved. I appreciate him a lot, for everything. I love him a lot, but I don't show it. I know he loves it when I compliment is cooking skills, so I always do it. Through this project, I felt like I am a little closer to my dad, who seems very cold outside, but he is extremely warm inside.

Fish Fillets Stir Fried with Green Onions and Ginger

 

Long

Baked "Ca Nuong" - This dish is my dad's favorite - catfish steamed in the oven, with onions and healthy amounts of Tony Chachere's seasoning. He invented it in Houston, where he first resettled after the refugee camps. He had a fish fry to go spot, learning the ways of cajun catfish taste preferences while learning the ways of this corner of America. To me the dish represents his experience at the time. A bit of Saigon, and South Houston. A bit of Gulf Coast of the USA and a bit of the Mekong River. Two flavors of space and history, brought together due to the end of wars in Vietnam, and the beginning of his life in America. The dish now is our family go-to everytime I come home to visit from wherever I have landed - Ohio, Wisconsin, Hanoi, New Jersey, and lately, Philadelphia, PA.

- Nancy

Baked Catfish

 

Teresa

My mom has always been known as the best cook - on both sides of the family. She can whip up mouth watering dishes to feed 10, 15, 20 people in an hour. She has three pans going at a time while chopping and still manages to talk the whole time. She works magic. I grew up not appreciating how lucky I was to be able to eat her food. I wanted "their" food, "American" food. I wished for hamburgers, meatloaf (what was I thinking???), and fries or at least some form of potato that wasn't cut up and stir fried. I was delighted when we would take trips to McDonalds or when my dad would give me frozen tv dinners. It wasn't until I left home that I started to miss and crave my mom's delicious home cooking. 

 

My mom and I had a hard relationship growing up. I am of mixed descent and wanted to pass, to be the same as everyone else as much as possible. My parents' accents and my Asian mom made that hard. We argued a lot,

both of us stubborn and opinionated. But through her food, her cooking and caring, she showed her love. My mom loves through cooking. Her dishes have served more than our family. Our house was a refuge for other immigrant folks here without family. We always held large holiday gatherings where other immigrant friends would gather to eat together, sing karaoke, share stories and laugh. My mom built community. She created family - building new bonds with others whose family ties were across the ocean as well. Her food fed the soul. 

 

I have learned how to care through food, through nourishment, through meal time gatherings from her. I still don't have her skill - my salt balance isn't on point, my stir fry is usually over done. I hope to learn at least part of her skill. But I think more importantly I have learned her heart. 

"Cold Mix" Tofu

 

Yvonne

This summer I was able to work on my own project, Dish, with my parents when our family met together in California at my sister’s house.

 

My parents were born in China but grew up in Taiwan. Therefore, their cultural background is a mix of both Taiwanese and Mainlander (this is what we’re called by Taiwanese). I grew up with the street foods of Taipei city, which due to the war, includes not only Taiwanese dishes, but also food from various regions of China - mantoe (a plain steamed bun) from Shangtung sold on a bicycle,

tongue numbing dishes from Sichuan, subtle dishes from Shanghai, the list goes on. My sister and I asked my parents to each make two dishes. My mom made zha jiang mian and pearl meatballs, and my dad made beef noodle soup and revolution bread.

 

Zha jiang mien is the dish that I mentioned in the inspiration of this project, a dish my grandma (my mom’s mom) made that my cousin misses. My mom remembers grandma making this dish, and she talks about the differences between how each region makes it differently. The other dish, pearl meatballs, was a request from my sister. It’s been awhile since my mom made it, but we always remember from when we were little, mom would bring the bamboo steamers out from the cabinets once in a blue moon and fill them with these meat balls. They’re called “pearl” meatballs because they’re covered in sweet sticky rice so that when steam, a coat of translucent rice covers the meatballs. She would only make them when they had guests over, because it was a time consuming dish.

 

I asked my dad to make beef soup noodle. This is a Taiwanese dish, and the way my dad makes it, the beef was always melt in your mouth. There’s a secret to it, which he reveals in the video. The other dish my sister suggested my dad to make, which I also thought about, was “revolution” bread, which I titled as flat pan bread below. My sister actually doesn’t like to eat it at all - it’s barely sweetened, super dense, with an extremely hard and thick crust. I actually really like it, it’s great to munch on. Baking doesn’t really exist in Chinese cuisine, and this “bread” was no exception. This dish was “baked” in a pan on the stove top. The video also tells the origin of its curious name.

 

My background is complex. My parents were born in China, but I learned about my Chinese culture and heritage while I spent ten years of my youth in Taiwan. I've spent over thirty years of my life so far in the states, yet I am clearly a foreigner. There is a saying in Chinese, "a fallen leaf will aways return to it's roots", describing the idea of when someone leaves his/her home, he/she will eventually return to his/her home. Throughout my life I always felt like a leaf blowing through places, but never having a home to return to. Because of this, to me my home is who I am, including my heritage, my family history, and how my background has shaped me. Perhaps I'm more of a snail than a leaf.

Beef Noodle Soup

 

Pearl Meatballs

Zha Jiang Mian

 
 

Flat Pan Bread

Dave

 

This is a dish that my mom modified for me and my sister growing up. It is meant as a snack for kids, so there are no special serving instructions. My mom used to have bowls that said my name, "Dave," and my sister's name "Jenny," so she served this in those bowls.

 

When I first asked if there's any secret to making this dish, my mom said no. But after our version turned out not so great (I think I accidentally stopped recording before then), she modified her answer to say fresh rice cakes are better than the packaged kind to make something truly tasty.

 

I was interested in this dish because I remember it from my youth, but I forget the taste. I remembered that my mom had substituted ketchup for red pepper sauce in some Korean dishes, which I think of as being neither Korean nor American, but Korean American, which is how I identify as an adult. Thinking through the recipe, I was sure it would taste gross now that I'm older and my palate has changed, but it was not bad. Now I know how to make this for my own daughter, Lula, who is mixed race.

1/2 Tablespoon Soy Sauce

1 Tablespoon Ketchup

1/2 cup Cooking Syrup

1 pound Rice Cakes (fresh is better!!)

Sweet & Sour Dduk Bok Ki

 

Devon

My name is Devon Liu and I am going to 8th grade in September. My birthday is on October 4th. My mom created this dish. This dish mainly contains ground pork with tofu (I eat it with rice.) My mom made this dish when I was hungry and wanted to created something I love to eat.

Ingredients:

Raw ground pork -- 1lb

Tofu

Sweet soy sauce

Seasoned soy sauce

Salt/Pepper

Oil

Garlic (3 pieces)

Shallots (2)

Star Anise (for flavor) (3)

Chinese Five Spices

Ground Pork with Tofu

Hannah

 

Hello! My name is Hannah and I’m a senior at Central High School. My favorite hobbies are volunteering and hanging out with friends! Another thing about me is that I love being open in discussions. It could be about world issues, social injustices in minority groups, or it can just be silly and goofy like “Digimon is better than Pokémon, and you can’t convince me otherwise.” Everyday, I try to educate myself about the world because I am not always up-to-date, and that’s ok! Because everyone has their own life to worry about, and it’s easy to forget about what’s happening outside of our personal lives. When I first heard about a project on making a cooking video, I was really excited. I relayed this to my dad, and he was also as excited as I was. When we got to recording, there was a lot of mess-ups since the two of us were a little awkward with the camera. But we overcame the awkwardness with a lot of jokes and laughter. One of the most memorable memories from the recording was when my dad told me how happy he felt whenever he cooked for family. It really showed how much love he had for us, and I could feel it though this project. Although this recipe is a simple, traditional dish my dad made sure it was perfect to eat. Every single step was executed perfectly. It was almost like watching a cooking show in front of my eyes. Now, every time my dad cooks, I make sure to enjoy it wholeheartedly to thank him for his love and his cooking skills.

Wonton Soup Noodle