December 29, 2009

News Flash: Home Cooked Food Tastes Good

A typical meal in my household means 8 dishes for 3 people.

I've never been particularly picky in my ethnic dining choices, especially since I love variety. But whenever someone asks if I have preferences, I usually say "no Chinese or Mexican". Mexican, because I'm from Texas and I embrace Tex-Mex, in spite of all the naysayers who crave "authentic" Mexican food. I've been unfazed by most of the Mexican renditions in NYC which for some reason boast either fully Mexican or SF/Northern Cali-Mex food. Chinese, because I have an amazing cook of a mother whose skills I never fully appreciated until I left the nest and started craving dishes that I'm not sure had names in any language.

Egg-topped Ramen for breakfast with Pork Belly and Asparagus dishes. Gotta love my parents.

"Real" Chinese food, AKA: Stuff-Chinese-People-Actually-Eat-at-Home, really isn't the cesspools of grease that most Chinese-American cuisine presents. Therein lies the difference between Chinese food and Chinese-American food: Who the audience is. Some restaurants have menus that have been translated into English for the most part, but will either offer a Chinese only menu to select clientele or at least have a little untranslated box housing the simultaneously more exotic and more traditional dishes. Yesss, special boxes! Except I can't read Chinese anymore. D'oh.

My parents recently visited me this Christmas weekend since it was the first time I didn't return home for the holidays. I'm sure it won't be the last time work starts to take on a bigger role in my life, and plus it was a good lure to get them to come up and re-stock my frid- I mean, spend time with me. Happily. Eating.

Let me take you on a food journey:

On Christmas Day, we went down to Chinatown and got ingredients to make Pork, Chive, and Shrimp dumplings. We didn't always make them this way, but my mom started adding shrimp in because she claims it adds moisture, and who am I to argue with more meat?

It's tradition to make the dough from scratch, and plus the sweat [and tears] are natural seasoning. I kid, I kid. Chinese food is safe!

We even had this as a sort of Chinese Buche de Noel. Granted, this wasn't homemade, but I couldn't resist showing off the prettiness of this cake roll. Even though I'm not a huge fan of the single flavor ones, my inner five-year old couldn't resist this one's nutty exterior and fun colors.

Shrimp sauteed with onions in a mystery tomato sauce. I was too busy watching Food Network to see what she put in it. Hello, irony. We meet again.

In the background are pig trotters and pig snout. Did I mention we like meat, especially pork? I don't think I've ever craved chicken, but I'm always up for some piggy goodness. It's the Chinese White Meat.

Brussels Sprouts with Pork Belly in a brown sauce reduction. I wasn't sure where she was going with this, but my skepticism melted as soon as I tasted it. After all, there always has to be some sort of greenery in a meal, even if it is mixed in with meat. That's why pure vegetarianism, besides in the monasteries, is relatively novel in Chinese cuisine.

So, okay. I eat Real Stuff. Good for me, right?

Except no, not really. I stave off any hankering for the food until I can eat my mom's cooking, which happens,oh, about twice a year. I admit to cheating with the occasional Xiao Long Bao Zi or my favorite buns from Mei Li Wah, but for the most part, I've had a solid few decades of Chinese food versus not nearly enough of every other food in this world.

So I'll continue to eat hummus, sushi, pasta, and mountains of cupcake for the next few months until we meet again. After all, I've been in an unusual sugar low after all this healthy Chinese food. Gotta make up for it!*

*Already well on my way with the slice of cake next to my laptop.

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