Archive for the 'me' Category
Early last year, I have started contributing to the Cafe Slobbie Magazine in Seoul as their Hong Kong Correspondent, here’s one of my articles:
Accidental Family Reunion French Toast
Being a former British colony, HK-styled French toast is a common breakfast or afternoon tea item in HK cafe menus, it is always a treat to have French toast at home, as it takes a bit of preparation and muscle power if you don’t have a hand-held mixer at home. HK-styled French toast is definitely a nostalgic food for people who have been oversea for awhile.
Last week, my grandma (popo, my mom’s side, the one with the bye bye meat), had a major stroke, my family members from three different continents flew back to see her and we had an accidental family reunion. Even though the family reunion took place by a hospital bed, but I am sure that the positive energy that we brought made her survive the stroke.
With 8 people living in an apartment, my uncle assigned himself as the official personal chef serving breakfast and dinner. He has been working in the kitchen ever since he moved to Austrailia in the 90s, and in recent years he has started working at busy take away places in Sydney serving up nostalgic HK styled breakfast items like pineapple buns, toasted sandwiches and hot milk tea.
In this accidental family reunion, my younger brother finally got a chance to have some bonding time with my Australian uncle through a French toast cooking morning. This is one of my brother’s favourite food and he was more than happy to help and learn from my uncle. With a handful of people to feed, they collaborated to making one French toast after another. After meeting each other again for 20+ years, my brother got along with my uncle so well that it feels like they had always spent time together and cooking for the girls in the family while they sleep in….
Here’s the recipe: (for 8 people)
- 6 eggs (separate egg whites and egg yolks, whisk egg white with love till you see soft peaks), by separating the eggs, you get a fluffier crust and the toast will taste lighter instead of having a heavy eggy taste.
- 16 slices of white bread
- home-made strawberry jam
- butter (Australian)
- ground cinnamon
Heat some sunflower oil with medium heat in a frying pan. Take two slices of bread, spread with some homemade strawberry jam, and make it into a sandwich then dip in egg yolk and then dip in fluffy egg white. Place the sandwich onto the pan slowly, pan fry both sides until golden brown. Sprinkle with some ground cinnamon. Serve with some Australian butter (or any nice butter) and a drizzle of honey or syrup with a nice cup of black tea.
Welcome to the land of colourful of shop houses, colourful plastic serving plates, endless hawker centers. A blend of influences from Chinese, Malaysian and Indian cuisine…old Chinese cafe reminds of movie scenes from Hong Kong in the 60s or 70s. Old Mandarin songs playing, old-style stroke like Chinese food signs, paper packaging…very nostalgic indeed. Malaysian styled breakfast with freshly made Roti prata made with egg and dried mutton, Chiu Chow pork organ soup noodles for lunch and Indian naan and dahl for dinner. Indian breakfast with rava dosa and masala tea, Hainese chicken rice for lunch and Turkish dinner. Repeat. Little India, Chinatown, Arab Street…just like Main Street, Chinatown, Surrey in Vancouver.
I wonder if Vancouver’s multicultural scene will melt into something like Singapore one day maybe in 50 years…?
One of the sketches from the Urban Sketchers’ exhibition, curry fish at a Hawker Center. Inspired me to sketch a couple of Hawker Center stalls….a great way to experience the setting and take a break from eating until hitting up another stall.
Ngon = “delicious” in Vietnamese.
I spent some time with my cousin last year in Holland and he used to tease me all the time by saying that “I am a quarter of a century”. So, what exactly does a quarter of a century mean to me…
While gathering photos and organizing my thoughts for my “Edible Portrait” workshop, this workshop felt like a self-exploratory project. This workshop was a chance for me to reflect the journey I have taken so far in my life and to tell this story I have used home cooked meals with my family and friends. This is as much as a self-exploratory project for me, very personal, so personal that during the workshop I didn’t sound like my chirpy self but this deep reflective story telling voice came out…behind the colourful photos in the presentation and side stories, that’s my life. Stories and little observations of home cooked meals with family and friends that I might not have even shared with anyone but a few of my close friends, and now sharing my thoughts with in a workshop, the experience was so satisfying. I feel like there was a platform, a channel, a door for me to express my feelings about my migratory life, my thoughts on my family and more importantly what is home to me….a question I have pondered since my high school years and troubled my mom when I wrote a poem called “Migratory Bird” in Grade 12.
Talking about my Chinese roots, I felt like an extension of my family and culture like I belong to a bigger force/belonging to a culture from the way I cook or look at Chinese food, I have something to share with others through the medium of food.
My teacher Vjeko has always said that it’s important to position yourself whether you are designing or making other decisions in your life…and I feel that that while organizing my thoughts on my migratory life through home cooked foods, I have positioned myself on where home is and I feel that it’s important in order to move forward in my life. This experience has made me realized there is something special about using food to tell a story and being able to tell my own, I want to try to venture out and see if I can tell other people’s stories, whether it’s a company, someone’s celebration or their story…it’s always more memorable and enticing because your tummy is involved.
I want to thank everyone at Cafe Slobbie for making this workshop so much fun and enjoyable, as well as making me feel right at home in Korea with the ever changing, healthy and delicious Korean home cooked lunches and dinners. Special thanks to Zebby and Grace for inviting me to this workshop and curating the the project and letting me tie all these themes on food like memory, nostalgic, home cooked meals, family and migratory life, all themes I have been writing and talking about in the last year but letting me channel of these thoughts and topics in one workshop….I really feel lucky to be able to enjoy this special journey. Zebby, thank you so much I really feel like I can do anything and feel at ease whenever I working with you, hope to see you in Korea, Tokyo or Hong Kong soon!
Let’s end this post with Zebby making the little coaster for my “Home Sweet Home Essence” soup. If you want to see the rest of the workshop and the cooking demonstration of my grandma’s dishes like “Chop Chop Bye Bye Meat”, “Crunch Crunch Pancake” and “A Sticky Family” dessert, click here.
In preparing for my workshop in Korea, I have decided I am very much like a salmon. I have always thought I was more like a migratory bird but salmon is more fitting. Yes, salmon because they always migrate back to their birth place (in my case it is not for spawning reasons) but nonetheless there is this “force” pulling me back to this city. The luxury of seeing my grandmas or family relatives a bus ride away, the Chinese New Years dinners, wedding dinners and family gatherings….these I would say are amongst the “forces”.
It dawned on me that all the items that I felt was “home cooking” were all Chinese. I love the smell and taste of apple pies, pasta, pizza, burgers, croissants…etc but it just doesn’t quite make the list for “home-cooking”. I have always ask friends and new people I meet at parties on what kind of food reminds them of home and their answers vary from apple pies to soy sauce chicken, fermented sweet soy bean paste stewed in chicken and potato, eggplant with minced meat filling, dumplings to curry chicken. All the answers I got were all reflections of the culture/country their parents/grandparents belong in or came from.
For someone like me who has always questioned whether I am Chinese or Canadian or a little bit of both, maybe all you have to do sometimes is ask yourself what kind of food reminds you of “home” and you know where “home” is? Or maybe ultimately home is wherever you decide to cook these nostalgic home recipes/foods for closed friends around you…
If you are in Korea on September 17th, I would love to see you at the workshop, I will be creating a culinary representation of my nostalgic family album through stories and family recipes!
Location: Cafe Slobbie, Seoul
Date: September 17th
Time: 16:00 – 19:00
Contact: RSVP through firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: Cafe Slobbie Facebook Event Page
I think I can officially say that nothing can stop me from cooking, not even a two inch blister on my right hand. I somehow touched the steam of the Chinese medicine pot while smashing peas for a dip and so that’s how my right hand went out of commission. Essentially, I burnt my finger making a simple pea dip. The blister did not show up until the next morning, it was quite cute looking exactly like a gummy candy until it was “deflated” by a nurse and antibacterial gel went on the wound. That was when I realized blacking out is actually a defense mechanism for animals to “play dead” and not a near death experience.
I have realized a few things cooking with one hand for the past week:
1) Meals are best assembled only like couscous salad or sandwich boards, as the heat from cooking makes the wound not so happy
2) With the help of others, crepe cravings can still be satisfied, like the crepe party at my house – managing what others can help cut, wash, crack, whisk and with minimum assistance of my injured hand, I can make crepes
3) There is an advantage to eating only with one hand, as the other injured hand is left clean to focus on switching TV channels
4) According to my Chinese herbal doctor, eating eggs, goose meat, seafood and spicy food is not allowed with a wound like mine.
What’s in a farewell? Good-bye? The end? A start of a new beginning? Salute to the past?
I have started and ended many things/relationships/positions in the past couple of years. I think with every ending or beginning, courage is the most important thing. The courage to embrace a new journey, challenges and unknowns. Lately, my courage combined with my curiousity has triggered me to explore into the realms of Chinese medicine. The last month was spent on improving my overall health and focusing on what I eat and my eating habits. The guidance of a Chinese medicine doctor made it easy for me to rethink about what I put into my mouth, how it affects my body and have a better understanding of my “shell”.
A good friend will be leaving Hong Kong soon and to say farewell, the best gift is to give him courage so he can embrace his upcoming journey whatever it may be. I wonder what kind of food gives people courage?
I have come to the conclusion that when life serves me lemons, I should make lemonade and lemon tarts with them. I realize that one of the important lessons in life is to balance what you have now and where you want to be. How to enjoy and make use of the resources you have now and also plan for the future. I find myself trying to gather and think of making the “lemon tarts” in my life and forgetting that in the meantime, I can still use those lemons and fix myself a jug of refreshing lemonade with some mint and syrup.
I guess this is probably a reinterpretation of a quote from my all time favourite book, The Alchemist:
“The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”
(This is the only oil related photo I could find on my computer, I know it’s more than two drops of oil but I love and miss the random experiments at Proef!)