First off, I am not a chef by any means, but I do LOVE to EAT! My parents always said, ‘those who love to eat will also know how to cook’ (喜歡飲食的人, 也會知道如何烹調). When I was a kid, I was very fortunate to have parents who cooked everyday. Mom and dad both cooked, it was like an Iron Chef competition in our kitchen. It was always very amusing to watch. When we sat down for dinner, mom and dad always asked us which dish tasted best as if we were the judges. Both my parents cooked so well, nothing really compared to my parents cooking because it not only tasted good, it was always made with love. We’re Chinese, so everyday my parents cooked traditional Chinese food that they probably learned from their elders. When I lived at home, I never cooked, I would watch them every once in a while, but never did they ask me to chop, stir and cook anything. I was the new generation ABC (aka American Born Chinese), who never had to cook at home. As I got older, I have to admit I got a bit worried, what if I never learn how to cook on my own since my parents cooked for me everyday? What if I never learn how to cook the traditional home cooked meals, what if I never get to eat them ever again?! Yes, all of these things went through my mind and scared me terribly. Today, there are still so many recipes I have to learn from my mom. I have always wanted to set Sundays with her so that she can teach me some recipes, so now…we share a new hobby together.
When I moved out of my parents’ house, I had to learn a lot on my own. I not only had to learn how to cook for myself, I also had to learn how to budget my finances since I was one of those fortunate ones whose parents never asked for rent or money for bills, yes, I was definitely very lucky. When I got my own place, I wasn’t making a lot of money, I was broke and living off very minimal income, I never knew how hard it was until I moved out, I had to bring lunch to work everyday. I still remember my first time grocery shopping when I moved out, I was with my dad and he told me what spices and sauces I needed to buy for cooking, he basically gathered everything up for me and paid for it too. Yes, I think he was worried! After this, I was on my own! I lived in Russian Hill so lucky for me, I was able to shop for food in Chinatown where it was dirt cheap. As long as I went to Chinatown with $20.00 in my pocket, I would walk home with lots of pink bags full of vegetables, fruits and meats! It was awesome! I would buy everything I was familiar with and everything my parents cooked at home. During my first months of cooking, I was nervous, I found myself calling my parents all the time, asking them all the steps on how to cook something! Let’s just say they never used measuring cups and they never wrote anything down, so I would have to ask one step at a time, I didn’t even have the basic cooking foundation in me! And when they forgot a step, I made them go over all the directions again! The other hard part is that my parents don’t speak English, so I found myself asking many questions, making sure I understood their directions correctly! I wrote everything down because I knew I would forget and the last thing I wanted to do was screw up the dish or ask them again. It was never a tablespoon of this or that, it was more like, just put a little bit of this or that. When I first started cooking, I was not so happy with the results, it didn’t taste like my parents. I went through a period of trial and errors, but since I had to cook for myself everyday, there were less errors and more improvement. They will never taste as good as my parents, but they are getting closer everyday.
I decided to chronicle how-to cook Chinese dishes because they remind me of my childhood and my family. I know that a lot of people from my generation do not know how to cook the traditional simple dishes from our parents, I still find myself learning everyday. I want my future kid and the future generations to know where they came from, because to me, food expresses tradition and culture. I also know that a lot of people who think of Chinese food think of greasy fried food, but, that is almost never served at a Chinese home. We actually eat a lot of soup, vegetables and steamed dishes. And yes, we Chinese people do eat a lot of strange things, chicken feet and all, but those are all delicacies to us. When I was younger, I used to wonder why we ate so many leftover parts of meat that no one else would eat. As I got older, I realized it may be because a lot of Chinese people were poor so they would make something from nothing, and low and behold, the dish ended up being delicious!
Today, I still find myself broke, maybe not as broke as when I first moved out on my own, but I still cook and bring leftovers to work. Now, my husband also gets to be my guinea pig and enjoy leftovers as well!
This website is dedicated to my mommy媽媽 and daddy爸爸. Because of them, I am always willing to try new food even if it looks and smells a little strange. I will forever miss my daddy’s cooking and his happiness, joy and laughter when eating good food. I am forever grateful that my mommy is patient and spending the time to teach me her cooking techniques and recipes.