Although I am Asian by ethnicity, I was born and grew up in the States. Unlike most other families with immigrant parents, my mother was a stay-at-home mom and she was in the PTA. Our neighborhood while growing up, though predominately Caucasian, was still made up of a lovely mixture of cultures and ethnicities and with my mom being a part of the PTA, her friends were not of the usual Asian variety (there were some, but they weren’t her only friends). Honestly speaking, though, she didn’t have to learn how to cook until she got married so though her baklava was pretty good, I still remember her first attempt at making pizza from scratch.
About 70% of it was burnt. We ended up eating out that night.
I actually didn’t get into cooking until I was in college, mainly because it was most convenient, being a vegetarian (my family became vegetarian when I was around 14 years old)… and one that didn’t eat onion, garlic, leeks, and chives, all of which are almost always used in American vegetarian cuisine. And hing (asafoetida)… but that’s not as common unless eating Indian cuisine. I wasn’t even a foodie until I got older. I don’t know what happened, but when I was growing up, I didn’t like to eat. Now, I wish my parents didn’t make me finish everything in my bowl; perhaps then I wouldn’t feel the need to do so till this day and, consequently, gain weight so easily.
Once I got into cooking, though, I made a point not to make a lot of Asian food. My family is Vietnamese-Chinese so though my mom does like venturing into other cuisines, it was still mainly of the Asian variety. They make it well, I thought, so why should I make a mediocre attempt at it? Well, since I got married to a Taiwanese guy and his older brother lives with us for the time being, I have been cooking a lot more. Yay! However, it’s been mainly of the non-Chinese variety, because these two guys can cook and they only cook Taiwanese food. Occasionally, I have been toying with the idea of making Asian food because these two guys apparently prefer it. My husband’s more open-minded but the other one… let’s just say I have a lot of leftovers on the days where BIL (brother-in-law) doesn’t like the food as much. Plus, after staying in Taiwan for a month and eating Taiwanese food about 98% of the time, I suppose I can’t “deprive” them, either. Taiwan is great at their vegetarian food, but after eating almost the same thing day after day, I was having intense cravings for non-Chinese cuisine.
However, like I said, Taiwan is a great country to visit if you’re vegetarian. A good 10% of the population is full-time vegetarian while a portion of the remainder may go vegetarian for a couple of days a month for religious (Buddhist) reasons. As such, there are a lot of choices there. While there, I bought two Taiwanese vegetarian cookbooks. I came across a recipe one day while designing the menu for a Chinese-themed dinner. It seemed pretty easy. Too easy, one might say. It was essentially tofu and oyster mushrooms. How did one make it? You lay it in a pan, pour the sauce over it, cover it, then forget it for 12 minutes. Done.
I was skeptical, but I decided to try it out. Also, it was on the healthy side, which is something I need. The Taiwanese people are all about hospitality and I was fed wherever I went, even when I didn’t want to be fed. I was fed so much that when I returned to the States, I found out I gained 5 pounds. Great. Good thing the engagement photos we had done was at the beginning of our stay there…