I’m sure we’ve all faced the same dilemma, as I often encounter, of what to do with Chinese takeout leftover rice. Do we save it or throw it out? I’m always reminded of starving children in China whenever I tip the classic paper carton over the garbage pail, before hastily reversing my action. Invariably I would clasp the top of the rice container back together and put it in the refrigerator. Very soon I would discover that the rice container had multiplied and there will be three or four of them to reckon with.
My neighbor, Kim, had a revelation the other night while observing me make a stir-fry of blooming chives with tofu. She noticed while I spent a bit of time chopping and preparing the ingredients, it only took me about 10 minutes to finish the dish stir-frying it.
I was in Chinatown last weekend shopping for Chinese provisions to bring back to Harlem. To my delight I noticed that dong sun (冬筍), or winter bamboo shoots, are in season. Winter bamboo shoots are one of the prized vegetables, along with dong gu mushrooms (冬菇 or winter mushroom) eagerly awaited in markets by shoppers in China during winter. They used to be two of the few fresh vegetables available during the harsh winter months. Therefore they are revered and commonly paired in winter dishes.
I grew up in a rather suburban residential neighborhood of Singapore in the 1960’s. Our home sat on a hill up from a main thoroughfare. The vicinity is devoid of any commercial establishments but for a little dry goods store three quarters way down the hill. I often frequent the store for two reasons. One was to buy local and foreign candies, which they stocked in neat rows of glass canisters. Another was to ogle at the myriads of dry food products, many of which I could not even identify. I remembered the front of the store lined with sacks of grains and beans. There were white rice, glutinous rice, brown rice, soybeans, mung beans, red beans and others. There were also rows of glass canisters filled with dried mushroom, cuttlefish, squid, scallop, and all kinds of seafood. And then there were the individual cellophane packages of dried plums, nuts and Chinese fruit candies strewn all over the counters. We used to buy them by the jin, which is a Chinese weight unit still used in Singapore then. This is my memory of the Seng Hock market.
Photography by Ron Boszko
I don’t understand why Hong Shao Rou (紅燒肉) is never on a Chinese restaurant menu in America. Maybe it is simply just too exotic or “home style.” But ask any Chinese person and they can tell you stories of grandmother’s Hong Shao Rou. Family recipes are often guarded secrets, and only passed down within the family members through generations.
I am writing a food blog! This is a big change for my home “cooking career.” I’ve enjoyed fine food and cooking all my life. I’ve cooked for and entertained my family and friends for years. Up till now that’s how I view my cooking for the most part: as entertainment. I’ve never really considered writing about cooking. That is until recently when Kim Foster, … Continue reading The Namesake