If you are familiar with the political history of Taiwan, my home until the age of 14, then you will understand the culinary diversity found in this wonderfully small island. In 1949, the Chiang Kai-shek government fled mainland China, bringing close to 2 million of soldiers and civilians to Taiwan, all with various provincial backgrounds. And among them were my grandparents.
My grandma (nai-nai) from my dad’s side was a native of Sichuan, and thanks to her, I was exposed to the tingly-numbing Sichuan peppercorn early on. My dad’s dad (yen-yen) came from Zhejiang, a province known for delicate preparation and vibrant, seasonal ingredients.
My mom’s mom (po-po) was a nurse during WWII in the city of Tianjin, a metropolis in Northeastern China. As a kid I loved her pickled carrots and cucumbers, and the delicious noodles with pork and bean paste, known as zajiang mien. Granddad (gong-gong) from my mom’s side hailed from a small village in the province of Hebei, where everyone knows how to roll out dumpling and bun doughs blindfolded.
Raised by his Sichuan mother, Dad was trained to take on spicy food from a young age. His twice-cooked pork is a must-learn on my list to master. And although Mom never entered the kitchen before marrying Dad (and quite a few years after, too, as Dad would just cook for them both), she quickly discovered that she is blessed with a sharp palate and high aptitude after a few attempts at cooking. Mommy is the best chef I know, also the chef I aspire to be one day.
So for me, it is rather difficult to sum up Chinese food in a few words given how differnt the style can be from one region to the next. The most accurate way to describe “my” Chinese cooking is perhaps the word “homemade.” No they may not be the dishes you find in your local Hunan Garden or the likes, but they are what I eat at home. That’s why I want to share, so maybe you can enjoy such delectables and call them your homemade, too. 🙂