When I look back, I realize my Dad was quite eccentric and a non-traditional Chinaman, a strange kind of combination. I may have picked up some of his traits, hmm.
Let’s start with Dad, the non-traditional Chinaman because he ‘kept’ all 4 girls instead of abandoning us in shoeboxes on the roadside (common in China in the old days.) He spent quite a bit of money sending us abroad for our education and made sure we all had nice teeth. Dad, the eccentric was in 2 parts: 1) he loved orchids and put them above our bathing water rations (too complicated to explain but trust me, we were not happy campers) 2) he had a habit of waking up in the middle of the night and cooking up a foodie meal but only ever woke one of us up to share with him!
His cooking goes something like this:
- buy very, very expensive dried scallops, shred and add as soup base
- only use stems, no leaves of vegetables
- use very, very good & expensive cuts of meat, poultry or seafood
- cook noodles al dente, he loved texture, another trait I got from him, yay.
- focus on very zen-like dishes. I was lucky to be chosen to share with Dad! I didn’t realize he was such a foodie. He just came up with these dishes. The 2 I remember are: fried egg on ham with cabbage on the side and dried scallop soup with cabbage and noodles
Well, I think he’d like my very simple dish of Salmon Bok Choy Soup!
It’s so easy and you can use nearly any leafy vegetable you have in your fridge! I can’t think of anything you can’t use, I used Bok Choy. Staples are ginger, garlic, ready made chicken or beef broth, scallions.
The basis of this dish is to poach fish in chicken or beef broth while you fry up the veggies with ginger and garlic, shallots and whites of scallions. Use one bowl of broth per person to poach fish in. Keep heat on low so you don’t make the fish tough and dry. Test the fish for doneness by pressing with a ceramic or wood spoon. Remember, fish will continue to cook in the hot broth, so undercooking is advised.
Then all you have to do is ‘plate’ the poached fish with soup in a nice big bowl or coup dish. Add the veggies on the side together with the garlic, ginger and any juice from the wok fry. All this adds to the flavor of your broth. Sprinkle chopped green parts of scallions or a mix of fresh herbs like basil, mint or cilantro, if you like spicy like we do, sprinkle chili threads which look BEAUTIFUL and EAT or SLURP! A side of homemade kimchi went perfectly with this dish. You’ll notice we don’t have starchy carbs but you can have over noodles if you want. It’s good just like it is so you truly savor the simplicity of this dish.
My husband declared he’d like to eat like this for a little while. I think I ‘married’ my father! I’m so glad they met.
Some other eccentric things I remember about Dad (you don’t have to read all of them, this is for my sisters and I to remember him by!) I do wish I had taken photos of him cooking, tending his orchids or fish. Both my parents were really extraordinary creatives, I guess that’s where my sisters and I got it from.
I was so glad he got to enjoy some time with my brother’s kids who he doted on and actually gave up smoking because of them! I’ll never forget once we went to see the grandson at some festival and as he spotted him, he said to me, “what a handsome young man!” I think he meant his grand kid looked like him! Another time, the grand daughter was playing cello, he just nodded and smiled and at the end, he said, “Lovely darling, but it was out of tune!” We all had to laugh because he always tells it like it is.
- he helped my sister and I build the most beautiful silkworm home with cardboard and toothpicks, I can still ‘see’ it.
- he bought me an electric blue skateboard when they first came out in the USA!
- he bought me the cutest aluminium cookware set and we used to wash the pots out together so they sparkled. I think he got me into cooking way before I knew I wanted to.
- he installed an exotic fish tank inside his and mom’s bathroom!
- he built greenhouses (see photo below) for his exotic orchids that he had flown in from all over the world.
- he bought us baby furry chicks and then paid us to catch flies to feed them. We had to put them inside a matchbox and show him so he could count them and pay us. Well, we showed him the same ones and got paid twice till he found us out.
- he loved wearing jammies at home and drove my mom nuts. If guests visited, he’d change from cotton ones to silk ones!
- he always appreciated my mom’s cooking and made sure he told her EVERYTIME! She lived to hear it. Even when he was in hospital, he’d ‘light up’ when mom arrived with dinner, it was endearing to watch (I think my hubby takes after him!)
- he loved the phrase “quat tse”, literally translated means ‘zen like with style’, he applied liberally to mom’s cooking!
- he loved cashmere and silks and was quite a dapper dresser, see photos below.
- he was very tidy and had a place for everything in his desk. I know I got that trait from him!
- one of his pet peeves was seeing us with wet hair. He’d chase us to dry our hair, something about catching a cold?
- he’d write some very disjointed thoughts in letters. I think I picked that up from him too, oops.
- he had to ‘borrow’ cash from my piggy bank once & was so proud when I announced he had to pay me interest.
- he was very musical, we always had a piano in the house. He also loved the accordion (see photos below.) He’d say to my sister who also played the piano, don’t worry about getting the notes right, play with feeling!
- he allowed my sister and I to put a big curtain so we could play ‘house’ under his grand piano. It got quite loud under there!
- he was a great provider! With 5 kids and a busy business, he always set aside Sunday to take us out for dim sum or picnic or the beach. I have such fond memories of these.
- considering he had no background in engineering or metals, he came up with a blueprint for aluminium prefabricated housing and sold it all over the world to governments, wow!
- he was an entrepreneur all his life started as a farmer, then motorcycle retailer (see photo below), then the prefab aluminum government housing project and he appreciated that I forged out on my own. I’ll never forget he came with my hubby and I when we were ‘sourcing’ my cast iron wok. They were telling me they could weld other metals into cast iron. My Dad had some knowledge of building prefab housing and knew something about metals. When he heard that, he didn’t say anything infront of the tradesman but when we left, he said to me, ‘Darling, he’s just saying that cause he wants your money. Cast iron is too soft a metal to weld into, don’t listen to him.” I’m so glad I brought him because I’d probably have 5,000 of the woks with no handles!
- he was game for anything. When our Japanese neighbors brought my parents kimonos, they got photos taken in them, ha, ha (see below.)
- best thing about Dad? He got us out of China, enough said.
Love to hear your memories of cooking with your Dad or what your Dad means to you!
Don’t forget to check out the Let’s Lunchers’ posts on their Dads! And if you’d like to join Let’s Lunch, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #Letslunch — or, post a comment below.
Here’s a great way to see the round up on Pinterest by Emma, thanks for doing that!
Aleana‘s Homemade Scottish Oatcakes at Eat My Blog
Charissa‘s Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks & Uncle Andy’s Chimichurri Sauce at Zest Bakery
Eleanor‘s Salmon Bok Choy Soup at Wok Star
Emma‘s Ham and Rice at Dreaming of Pots & Pans
Jill‘s Root Beer-Glazed Onion Dip at Eating My Words
Grace‘s Taste of Diversity at HapaMama
Linda‘s Sesame-Ginger Chicken Wings at Spice Box Travels
Lisa‘s Hot Sugary Lip-Smacking Jam Donuts at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Patricia‘s Egg Candy at The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook
Rashda‘s Beth Howard’s Apple Pie at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Sonja‘s Spicy Smoked Paprika Lamb Shank Goulash at Foodnutzz