Tuesday, April 27, 2010


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.

DSCF4285 DSCF4287

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?


Genesis said...

gotta love asian meals and their numerous dishes :)

i think its really sweet of you to be taking them on tours. the only greek food ive ever eaten was a gyro so i cant help you there...but have fun!

MelindaRD said...

Holy cow that looks so awesome. That is too funny that they just showed up and you were surprised, but what a nice surprise.

My fave Greek food is saganaki (not sure on the spelling) but it is the cheese that is lit on fire. I got it every year at the greek food festival in Vegas.

Tamara Marnell said...

Ditto genesis: I've only eaten gyros and sub-par baklava, so I don't know what is considered the epitome of "Greek food." I think anything you make will wow them.

Eireni said...

Incidentally, I have found myself in similar situations (despite not being Greek...but you know how that goes).

I made:

Gyro using thin sliced lamb with tzaziki in home-made pita bread

spanakopites and tiropites

stuffed vegetables (extra feta-y, with the meat and all)

a greek salad (obv sans lettuce:)!)

and put out olives and seasoned feta

also, for dessert, honey and nuts over greek yogurt, and galaktoboureko.

Hope that helps? haha!

fittingbackin said...

Love all of those dishes - looks great! I think my first was cous cous? my favorite is souvlaki though! (forgive all of my spellings please!)

Erica said...

WOW! What a treat! Experiencing actual cultural food at home is way better than a restaurant. It all looks amazing!

I'd definitely do hummus, maybe falafel?

Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen said...

Wow, what an experience! I would have soaked in every bit of that!!! I love cooking with people and learning.

Great idea on the menu. How about falafel? Wish I could come for dinner that nigh! Sounds delicious!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely going to try the soaking the bok choy thing...I love bok choy, but I bet it's even better that way.

Greek food...what comes to my mind is spanikopita, stuffed grape leaves, hummus and/or baba ganoush, tabbouleh salad, falafel, and pitas. I think I just named everything that comes on the veggie delight plate at the local greek place in town :)

Molly said...

Oh wow that all looks so so so good!

I have never prepared a Greek meal! It would of course have to have red wine, some hummus.... hmm I don't know!

Heather (Where's the Beach) said...

I love bok choy - I've never heard of soaking it. Will most definitely give it a try the next time I make it though. I think it's so awesome you got a chance to learn in the kitchen that way.

Ashlei said...

Wow that looks good!

Greek food...hmm..definitely hummus, pitas, maybe tabouli, olives, feta, tomatoes, stuff like that. I don't know of any mains though because I'm not much of a meat eater!

Gabriela said...

I've never tried Taiwainese food, but everything looks heavenly...I love how plant-focused most authentic Asian dishes are!!

I'm obsessed with the following Greek salad combination: romaine, Greek olives, hummus, baba ghanouj, falafel balls, stuffed grape leaves and feta. Heaven, and super easy to throw together too!

runnerforever said...

Greek food, hmmm. Probably hummus and pita with a side of greek salad (heavy on the feta!)

Peace Love Nutrition said...

I love meals that have a lot of dished! Looks delicious