Archive for January, 2011

Chao-Chung Family Sandwich

It was an amazing weekend spent with family and learning a little bit more about my heritage. It’s not often I come across these moments as much of my family history is lost amidst the cultural-generational-language divide as well as the Pacific divide between Taiwan to America. Or perhaps, now that I’m a little older, what I may not have paid much attention to or never made sense as a kid has now become quite fascinating.

Hanging around the Beachcomber Cafe.

On Friday, I had the privilege of spending a day with my cousin Sun-king and his wife, Gwyneth. He’s a pediatric gastroenterologist (try saying that 10 times) and she’s an amazing pianist. Well, he’s got hidden talents with the violin too, but I have yet to find an opportunity to hear him play. Maybe they can play something for me on my next trip to Taiwan (though I know not when that might be, sadly). We spent the afternoon eating some amazing American fare at the Beachcomber Cafe (one of my favorite So Cal getaways) and topped it off with a trip to Gelato Paradiso and Sprinkles Cupcakes. Then after a couple more pit stops visiting a friend in Irvine and Al’s place, I dropped them off at the Metrolink to take the train to Fullerton for a $6.75 one-way trip. (One of the rare occasions for using expensive public transportation in So Cal in the land of ridiculous car commuters where it takes an hour to drive 20 miles even with freeways up to 6 lanes wide for one direction).

With our Aunty!

Then on Sunday, I heard Catherine was in town. All I remembered of Catherine was that she’s a twin and they were born in America and that she and her brother were really little. But time has certainly passed and she’s now a pharmacist in Taiwan! So we got to have dinner in Rowland Heights at Country Bistro where one of their selling points is their herbal soups. And over the course of dinner, I found out how it is that she’s technically my “aunt” even though she’s 6 years younger than me! Apparently, her dad is one of the younger brother’s of my dad’s dad (my grandpa). And grandpa comes from a family where he had like 14 siblings (I have yet to verify this in detail in future conversations.) Which then makes her my dad’s cousin, and therefore my aunt. And since she’s on my dad’s side of the family, I would then call her “Ah-go”. The Chinese language has special designations to make every relationship clear unlike the English language where it’s just aunt or uncle. But we’ll have to table this one for now as well…

I think my next great adventure may be to retrace my history and explore Taiwan…from the one street villages and oyster shucking communities my parents grew up in. Target travel dates: October/November 2011 (that’s when Taiwan has the best weather as verified by mom). So, who wants to join me?

Xi Fan – Comfort Food for an “ABC”

It’s a chilly 50 degrees F in sunny southern California…welcome to our winters…but when the temperature drops, for this ABC (American-born-Chinese)…or ABT (American-born-Taiwanese) kid, it just means it’s a perfect opportunity to make myself some xi fan and have some friends over. It truly is the best comfort food…super hot rice porridge with all the sides to complement such as fried gluten (my favorite!), braised eel, dried fish fu, sauteed tofu, greens, ‘shrooms, and baked cheese curls! It’s comfort food that brings me back to the childhood days where practically every Sunday morning, my mom would make us rice porridge and lots of other fixin’s like green onion pancakes (with modified flour tortilla skins), steamed soft tofu with soy paste dipping sauce, and other random yummies.

But now that I’m all grown up, it’s learning how to make this porridge all by myself. Thankfully the internet exists now so I don’t have to call my mom every time I need to know how to make something I remember eating as a kid and can experiment on my own in consultation with anyone else I can find through the internet. This has been my favorite website for some basic Chinese cooking tips (as I’ve had to look up twice now what the perfect rice:water ratio is just to make rice!).

But in the end, this is how I made my:

Fish Rice Porridge

Servings: Approximately 6

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of white rice
  • water
  • ginger
  • green onion
  • white fish
  • salt
  • sesame sauce
  • pepper
  • flour

Directions:

  1. Make rice ahead of time in rice cooker (a day ahead). I was too paranoid that I wouldn’t get the ratio rice for uncooked rice.
  2. Throw rice in crock pot about 2.5 hours before you plan to eat. Add water to the rice in the ratio of 1 rice amount to 2 additional water amounts. Break up the rice in the water and leave it be.
  3. Meanwhile, filet the fish into small pieces, marinate with some salt, pepper, sesame oil, and flour (I didn’t have cornstarch in the house).
  4. Sliver some ginger and slices of green onion.
  5. Throw fish, ginger, green onion into the crockpot and leave it alone til you’re ready to serve. Stir a few times every so often just to make sure it doesn’t stick in the pot.

Notes:

This is definitely the lowest maintenance rice porridge I’ve made with the best results. I remember my mom always watching over the pot of rice porridge on the stove, stirring constantly so it wouldn’t burn on the bottom of the pot and adding more water until it was the perfect consistency. In my laziness and not wanting to watch over a pot of porridge on the stove, I tried making plain rice porridge in a rice cooker only to have lots of that gummy rice water boil over in the cooker making a sticky mess to clean. Then I threw the porridge into a pot and added the fish to make it fish rice porridge. It turned out ok, but just lots of cleanup. Another time, about a month later, I was even more not in the mood to cook and forgot how annoying it was to clean up gooey rice water that overflows from a rice cooker, and threw all the ingredients in the rice cooker…lets just say it was even messier and also made the rice cooker smell fishy & gingery. Blech! I had to scrub that thing and rinse out with water what should not have been rinsed out in an electric rice cooker with all its coils/metal parts and air it out for a good long while . So, enter the borrowed crock pot from mom with a little labor…and it’s perfected fish rice porridge simple enough to make on a FT working girl schedule.

The Neti Pot – A Tribute to Brothers

It happened again at the end of the year – I was visited by a bug a.k.a. the common cold where the throat hurts if you swallow, then it moves into the sinuses, you’re congested, and every so often your head feels like it’s going to explode. Well, I don’t take to medicines too well and thankfully I don’t get sick too often these days (last cold was over a year or two ago), but I guess I just couldn’t fend off the bug this time around. Remedy: lots of sleep and lots of fluids. Well, sleep has been hit or miss this time since I’ve been living out of my sleeping bag for the last 2.5 weeks and camping out in 4 different places due to a leak in the ceiling that flooded my room because apparently So Cal homes weren’t built for rain. And staying hydrated also doesn’t work too well when your office is out of water (broken water filtration system), I’m hesitant to down tap water, and I keep forgetting to bring my own water supply. So I’m very tempted to try this thing called a neti-pot to clear out the sinuses. Basically a neti-pot is just a teapot for your nose where you pour water into one nostril until it flows out the other nostril. Haha. Maybe I should just get my house tea pot and give this concept a try or…

This reminds me of a time when I was a kid and my brother and I were hanging out at the car dealership for the entire day as my dad was resolute to leave the car lot with a purchase and wasn’t afraid to go 10 rounds of negotiation with the car salesman and manager. Oh boy, was that the longest and most boring day ever for a kid, but one thing I do remember is my brother and I were so bored that we started chugging our water bottles that the car salesman gave us. Well, my brother decides to make some ridiculous comment or something while I was chugging down that water bottle. Now, you can imagine what happened next…let’s just say I started laughing mid-chug and the water went upwards into my sinuses and my nostrils experienced a nice little waterfall and it really wouldn’t stop.

Ah…dear brothers…who needs to spend money on a neti-pot when you have a water bottle and loving brother around…