Most of my cooking is decidedly Chinese. The reason is simple (other than the fact that I am Taiwanese-Chinese): It is the only way I get to eat what I crave.
My very first residence in San Francisco was the bottom unit of a 2-story flat located in the Sunset district—18th Ave and Taraval— to be exact. And the kitchen, due to its position in the back of the house, was shunned from all natural light even on the sunniest days in San Francisco. To lighten up the mood while constantly cooking in an overcast room, I would bring music with me into the kitchen. That’s when I discovered Bossa Nova to be the best musical sous-chef for me.
Somewhat like falling in love, it is quite ineffable how this is the case, but Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Finest Hour is simply the best album to accompany me when I chop, mince, boil, and taste.
I usually start with Águas de Março to get into the mood for prepping. The playful melodies make my fingers dance and my hips sway, as I romance myself a very Portuguese afternoon in the otherwise plain kitchen.
And by the time Stan Getz’s sax takes over in the second verse of Girls from Ipanema— I don’t know anything about Jazz and most likely never will— I am usually in the middle of seasoning my food. By the first verse of Corcovado, that’s when everything comes together for tasting.
I admit to being a bit of a diva when I cook, preferring to be the only one in the kitchen. But I always make room for Antonio Carlos Jobim.