No one communicates quite like my father.
Voicemail: “Hello, Ileana. It’s your dad. We have a house full of Asian relatives. Give me a call back!”
Yes, despite having heard nothing about this when hanging out at my dad’s last week, apparently my step-aunt, cousins, and grandmother (who does not speak a WORD of English) decided somewhat on a whim to fly 10,000 miles and stay with us for a month!
So mere days after I was at a restaurant wistfully reminiscing about the delicious eats of Taiwan, I was eating a home-cooked Taiwanese FEAST:
This is apparently a totally standard meal for seven people (!). Clockwise from your 10:00, that is steamed crabs, sweet and sour fish, bok choy, beef and green peppers, pork stew and, in the center, radish soup.
Sitting and watching Moony (Sally, my stepmother’s, sister), and Sally’s mother in the kitchen was seriously awe-inspiring. I AM going to learn how to cook real Chinese food. So exciting.
Sally’s mom whacked up the crabs with a cleaver, then stirred and steamed them with chopsticks- very simple seasoning, just ginger, garlic, chilies, and soy sauce.
You can see she has the bok choy soaking on the left. I told her (through Sally translating) that it was the best bok choy I’d ever had and she said the secret was soaking it an hour before cooking it, because that helped leach out the bitterness. She also cooked it with garlic (which I also do) but instead of mincing it super finely she did it in thin slices and then cooked the bok choy in oil and water so the garlic steamed instead of browned.
Moony made the beef and green peppers (also just garlic, ginger, chilies, and oil along with the meat- London broil- and vegetables).
On the left that’s Moony preparing the sweet and sour fish. The sauce contained garlic, ginger, oil, orange juice, salt, and that oh-so-traditional time-tested Taiwanese ingredient of… Heinz ketchup.
I was like “When did ketchup get to Taiwan?!” and Moony was like “… 1940?”. So about as long as here hahahah.
The sweet and sour fish was ridiculously delicious, topped with cilantro and green onion picked in my dad and Sally’s garden:
The crab was delicious, though I forgot what a hot mess whole crabs are! So fun, though. Can’t remember the last time I ate crabs. I was able to eat these despite having seen them before they got broken down- they still had EYES. (Though the eyes were totally clear, meaning they were exceedingly fresh!)
The beef and green peppers:
And my plate:
Imagine more veg, slightly less rice, and only a taste of the soup (apparently a clear soup is a traditional component of a Taiwanese meal but it’s more of a palate cleanser- this didn’t taste like much other than broth).
And of course, as usual, Sally’s family brought a gazillion edible goodies you can only get in Taiwan. I wanted to try these bad boys:
They look just like the package:
And taste like a twiggier, crunchier rice krispie treat.
So here’s The Situation: I feel hugely indebted to my Asia family for the unbelievable hospitality they showed me when I was in Taiwan. My dad, unfortunately, not so much with the manners. I feel responsible.
To that end, I’m definitely planning lots of fun outings in DC (museums, art, monuments), and VA (Great Falls, OldTown), but Moony also mentioned that they had never eaten Greek food (!) so I want to make them an authentic Greek meal.
The thing is, I am kind of enmeshed in my own culture, so am not sure what to make? If you were to give someone a class in Greek Food 101, what would you serve? I was thinking about hummus, roasted lamb or maybe souvlaki, spanikopita, baklava if I’m feeling ambitious: what do you think? What are your favorites, or what was the first Greek food you ever tried?