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archive for October 2007

a hollow heart

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Recipe: sautéed kong xing tsai

I’ve always loved greens ever since I was a kid. That’s mostly because my mom made a point of preparing plenty of vegetables for dinner. Growing up in southern Virginia, the norm for vegetables was mushy, puke-green slop. Not at my house! Mom sautéed most vegetables and preserved their bright, beautiful greens, textures, and nutrients. No wonder my sister and I loved spinach, broccoli, and a whole host of Asian vegetables. One leafy green in particular was my favorite. The Chinese name is kong xing tsai. We had it on occasion at “authentic” Chinese restaurants or whenever a Chinese friend would bring a bag of it over from their garden.

Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake. It dawned upon me a few months ago that kong xing tsai literally translates into “hollow heart vegetable”. When I was rejoicing at my discovery of the Super H Mart in Denver on Sunday, I came across bags and bags of kong xing tsai in the produce section. An impulse buy, it most certainly was. I didn’t know how to prepare it, but I could call my mom and ask. I just hadn’t eaten the vegetable nor seen it in years.

a $3 bag of kong xing tsai

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a short road trip south

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

This past weekend we drove down to New Mexico to visit with my aunt, Elena. She’s my mom’s youngest sister and we are very close. My grandma was visiting and Elena had asked if I might want to drop in for the weekend. It’s a seven-hour drive from Boulder to Los Alamos. Seeing as the rest of my family is scattered all over the country, Elena is my nearest neighbor – just down the road (a few hundred miles) off I-25. Why not?

birthday tulips

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chinese tea-smoked chicken

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Recipe: chinese tea-smoked chicken

Sometimes I think I need to get out more.

Is there a recipe that you grew up with and loved, believing that it was some special family recipe, only to learn later that everyone knows how to make this dish and what? did you grow up under a rock? That seems to have happened to me on several occasions. The first one that I recall was when I was maybe 3 years old. My paternal grandparents were visiting from Taiwan. I didn’t endear myself to my Nai Nai (Chinese for paternal grandmother) at first because I kept hearing my parents talk about Yieh Yieh Nai Nai coming to visit. Yieh Yieh is what Kris and I were to address Grandpa as. But no one actually spelled this out for me. So the first I thing I said when they arrived was, “That’s Yieh Yieh Nai Nai,” looking at my Grandpa, “but who is she?” pointing to Grandma.

I fixed that blunder pretty quickly though. Nai Nai made some toast one morning and gave me a slice. I thought it was the best thing I had ever tasted and kept raving about it. Toasted Wonder Bread. I thought she was the only one who knew how to make this amazing snack. Toasted Wonder Bread. I’ll bet she got a kick out of that since she wasn’t really into cooking.

But my maternal grandma, Po Po knows how to cook. She made this smoked chicken on occasion throughout my childhood and knew it was a favorite of mine. Po Po lived with us for the first 9 years or so of my childhood (they tell me she arrived when I was 2, but as far as I’m concerned, she was there from the start) and she’s so much more than a grandma to me. When she moved to Michigan to live with one of my aunts, she used to make a batch of smoked chicken whenever Kris and I visited. She would laugh while Kris and I fought over how many pieces each of us was to get. My mom learned how to make it and then Kris and I would fight over the chicken when we went home to visit. It’s that good!

use sichuan peppercorns

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