Category Archives: Stories

The State of Chinese Food in America

Braised Pork Ham Seller

Braised Pork Ham Seller

Last Saturday Fred Ferretti wrote in a New York Times editorial about the poor state of Chinese food in America. Similarly last June Tim and Nina Zagat wrote an editorial, also in the New York Times, regarding the sorry state of Chinese restaurant food in America. These editorials highlight my biggest Chinese cooking complaints in America: 1) American public does not have good understanding of authentic Chinese food. 2) American food writers are not familiar enough with Chinese ingredients and techniques to write about them. 3) We always end up with writings about Chinese cooking with a fusion twist. How can you appreciate the play on fusion cooking if you do not even understand the bases?

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Chinese New Year Banquet

Fragrant Flower Tea

Fragrant Flower Tea
Photography by Ron Boszko

We did it! We had a blast on Saturday night. I managed to serve the full ten-course dinner without any mishap. We even photographed each course of the meal. My friend Ron, who is a great photographer, helped me with the photography. We set up a small “studio” area in our bedroom. Each course was carefully transferred to the “studio” prior to serving. And what great guests we had, they were so patient with the entire process. I love my neighbors!

So, I am now ready to share the dinner with all of you!

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Anatomy of a Chinese Banquet Menu

Chinese New Year Tangerine

Chinese New Year Tangerine

It was Chinese New Year’s Eve and I was in Chinatown buying last minute supplies for the family gathering. Although I had already braved throngs of holiday shoppers in Chinatown last weekend, I decided I would return to buy fresh seafood and produce on New Year’s Eve. I was pleasantly surprised that the shops were not overly crowded. I was expecting to claw my way through the fishmonger and fight for the last fresh DongGu mushroom in the produce markets. Instead I found aisles wide open at the dry goods stores and plenty of supplies at the fishmonger and produce markets. This rather leisurely pace of shopping gave me time to ponder what I had decided to do this year for Chinese New Year celebration: two TEN-COURSE dinners within the span of four days.

A chill ran up my spine. What have I done?

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Seng Hock Market

Canisters of Chinese Dried Seafood

Canisters of Chinese Dried Seafood

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.

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The Namesake


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 […]

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