As the years went by, I found myself complaining more – the traffic, the bad drivers, so many conflicts around the world. Why can’t everyone just do the right thing, and the world could be a better place?
Some days, I thought I might have turned into a cranky person, like Mr. Chen.
Mr. Chen was a university friend to my father. During the culture revolution, his family was labeled as the enemy of the state. His house was searched, and wealth stripped; his father was prosecuted and thrown into jail; and Mr. Chen himself without a job or means to support himself. Like many others ahead of him, he took the dangerous journey to the Pearl River Delta, jumped into the river, and swam across the sea to seek freedom. He was shot at by the soldiers, but fortunately landed safely in Hong Kong. Worked as an engineer, he married a lady 10 years younger. He was very fond of Mrs. Chen and constantly praised her achievements, such as being able to speak fluent English, and had worked as an executive assistant to a hotel general manager.
The Chens migrated to Australia in early 1980s. With their savings, they bought a small grocery store at Rose Bay and an apartment at Point Piper, both are rich suburbs of Sydney. Their apartment, although had wonderful views of the Sydney harbor, was dark, miserable, and quite a mess.
When I arrived in Australia in late 1987, my father asked the Chens to provide me with guidance and helps. Whenever Mr. Chen had the opportunity, he would talk about Chinese politic. He spoke with the deepest anger and hatred, teeth crunching and fist waving. He yelled at me from time to time, for my lack of interest of his topics, and I did not keep my mouth firmly shut.
Within a few months, I found a job at a Chinese restaurant. The restaurant specialized in mid-north cuisine, such as Peking ducks and spicy Sichuan dishes. The Chens had dinner in the restaurant one night, and particularly liked the Shandong shredded chicken. They asked me to get the recipe, which was refused by the chef. The Chens did not speak to me ever since.
I found out many years later, that Mr. Chen told my parents, who were afar, that I was very naughty – I enjoyed working as a waitress; and I went out for suppers with with co-workers after work.
The last time I heard of the Chens, they were running a small restaurant in a suburban office park. Every morning at 3am, Mr. Chen, then 78 of age, got out of bed to collect supplies; then he joined his wife at the restaurant to work.
I can’t say that I appreciated my experience with Mr. Chen. But I sincerely hope they are enjoying their life, and are happy.
And here is my version of a Shandong chicken, recalling the ingredients and method I learnt from the restaurant. I first placed the chicken in brine overnight, then shallow-fried the chicken with soy sauce, steamed the chicken, shredded the chicken, and served the chicken with a tangy and spicy sauce.
The most important element of this dish is the sauce. It is sweet, sour, salty and spicy – just like life, never boring.
Recipe and easy steps are as follows:
Meals for the homeless – chicken and apricot terrine, with ham fat, raisin, strawberry jam, thyme and bay leaf
Last Saturday my 10 year old boy bought a ham for the homeless feed out of his own pocket money. He and his dad sliced up the ham and left a pile of ham fat behind.
This Saturday was the Christmas dinner for our homeless friends. So I made this colorful chicken terrine with left over ham fat. I also added apricot, raisin, saute onion, corn kennel, cumin powder, cinnamon powder, thyme, bay leaf, strawberry jam, salt and black pepper.
Looks and tasted great, and so easy and cheap to make.
Here is a simple and delicious chicken drumsticks I cooked this afternoon, FODMAP friendly too.
I first frenched and marinated the chicken legs (skin on) overnight, with a dash of BBQ sauce, a dash of Hoisin sauce, a dash of soy, a dash of sesame oil, a dash of maple syrup and some turmeric and cumin; The next day I roasted the drumsticks in oven; Once fully cooked, I heated up a frying pan with some cooking oil, rolled the drumsticks in hot oil then added a splash of dark soy sauce. The smell was delicious.
I had been waiting for my cactus flowers ‘tanhua’ to bloom. Such beautiful dedicate living wonders, with flowers only open up for one precious night.
The unusual weeks of Sydney rain stopped briefly on Sunday afternoon. The flowers quietly bloomed during the night. I harvested 3 flowers, but hesitated on the thoughts of making a soup, Traditionally, the flowers are sun dried, then boiled with meat for hours, ending up all marshy and grey like the rainy weather. What a depressing thought.
I gently washed and sliced the flowers into quarters. I dropped the flowers into a saucepan of water with thinly julienne chicken breast; brought it to a boil, added a dash of sesame oil, a dash of dark soy sauce and a few pinches of white pepper. The soup was done in 3 minutes.
And here it was, a simple soup to show my appreciation of these natural beauties.
I work in an unremarkable looking building in the city that was built in the 70’s. When I started working there 12 years ago, the food court were ordinary but cheap. Then the landlord renovated the food court and increased the rents. Now the food is still uninspiring, but expensive. I had a salt and pepper chicken there last week – and it ended up in the garbage bin.
With an unsatisfied craving for salt and pepper chicken, I made my own today.
Recipe is as follow:
One of my friends and her 2 gorgeous children came over for lunch today. She has really good taste with food and wine, previously ran an restaurant in Italy while she was married to an Italian young fellow who cooked beautifully. Now a single mum, things are not as easy, and she is also having a difficult time at work. So I decided to cook her a heart warming meal to cheer her up – a dish with chicken, salmon, prawns, mussels, baby octopus sounded just like the perfect dish. To make it a bit more special, I gave the paella an Asian twist with miso, wasabi and Korean pepper.
Recipe is as follow:
My first restaurant meal in Australia was a Korean BBQ at a quaint little restaurateur at the back of Potts Point, an fringe suburb of Sydney filled with eateries, bar and clubs. It was an amazing experience for me – BBQ meat with rich flavors and endless little side dishes.
Here is my simple and quick Korean chili chicken, which is marinated with Korean pepper, cooked on a griddle over a gas BBQ stove. It is really nice to eat with warm rice, or in a lettuce wrap.
Recipe is as follow: