By Camille Chen, age 10, Asian American, California.
I eat, sleep, and speak Taiwanese culture every day. Not a day goes by without my speaking Taiwanese or eating Asian food. My parents moved from Taiwan to America before they had me. Their childhoods were very different though, because my dad had to travel with his family because of his dad’s job. My mom experienced the art of Asian foods, and learned how to cook Asian food from her mom, her grandma, and other elder family members.
I think that to be in an Asian family, it is a necessity to be able to at least cook some egg-fried rice. There are so many people out there that make such simple things the wrong way. You wouldn’t know how many videos are on YouTube with Asians looking at other people cooking Asian food and correcting them. Also, I think that Asian food allows you to really freestyle/improvise. For example, one of the dishes that my mom makes is Udon. Even though Udon is a Japanese type of noodle dish, you can cook it on the pan and mix it with pork and vegetables, and it is so enjoyable!
Taiwanese food is very unique compared toEuropean food. You need a lot of effort to make it, and learn about it. For instance, egg-fried rice can be extremely easy to make, but if you want someone to taste it and immediately love it, you need wok hay to make the flavor scrumptious when you are chewing the rice. The wok hay gives the rice a special flavor as if it’s cooked right under charcoal with a big fire underneath it. I consider the Wok as one of the wonders of Asian culture! It is so special and when you use it to cook anything, you can sense the heat and unique smells. The garnish adds even more flavors and makes it even better. But, you also need the correct garnishing. Egg-fried rice garnished with green onions is a classic, and adding cabbage with it is nice, but you don’t want a salad-like vegetable to go with your rice! The tiny details make Taiwanese food extremely difficult, but if you trust the process, it is all worth it in the end. However, egg-fried rice is just square one. Taiwanese food also includes soups with strong flavors or soups that can actually help your health!
One soup that’s healthy and delicious is ginger soup. Usually, my mother adds cooked chicken to make the soup less boring. My mother also adds rice to make it more child-friendly. The real stuff about it is the special cooking wine. And a pinch of garlic. That makes the whole house smell like heaven. When I taste the soup, first I detect the rice. The rice has no flavor on it’s own, but since it’s been in the soup for some time, it tastes like the soup. Its texture is sort of al dente and the chicken is no different. When I eat the chicken, it has the flavor of the soup and tastes wonderful. The garlic is so soft that you can eat it without thinking it tastes weird. You won’t even notice you’ve eaten garlic. Underneath the base of the soup, I taste the ginger combined with the cooking wine, but it isn’t overpowering. Soy sauce is added as well. The rice, chicken, and the stock together make a wonderful homey ginger soup. The best thing is that each quantity is about equal, so you won’t have to waste anything. Once it’s on the table, we finish it all and stay full for a long time.
Taiwanese food is important to me because I feel it brings culture and tradition. For example, dumplings, a very common and well-liked dish, are shaped so that they look like bars of gold; so when Chinese New Year comes along, people make or buy dumplings to eat in hopes of getting more money in the new year! The dumplings are a symbol of wealth.
Zong Zhe, another very popular Asian food, also has a long history behind it. Once, a man named Chu Yuan was hired as an advisor of the King. After a long time, he became an extremely wise advisor and everyone saw him as a good person. But then, one day when Chu Yuan was giving the king advice, the King disagreed with him. This made Chu Yuan so sad that he thought he was unfit to serve. So, he drowned himself in a lake. Everyone felt sad that such a good person would die, so they wrapped up the rice in leaves to prevent all the fish and shrimp from eating up Chu Yuan’s body. This rice wrapped in leaves soon became known as Zong Zhe. Nowadays, people eat Zong Zhe at the Dragon Festival. I feel like this is an important and somewhat heartwarming story. It’s pretty entertaining to see others’ reactions to the story of Zong Zhe.
When my grandpa was young, his family didn’t have much money. He didn’t have shoes to wear, no toys to play with, and they rarely had meat on the table. But when Chinese New Year came along, his family mixed flour and water together to make a certain type of dough and pinched it into shapes of butterflies and flowers. The point is, just because my grandpa’s family was poor, his mom still did her best to keep the tradition going on, and also wanted the kids to have =>p.17 Taiwanese Food continued from p. 16
fun moments in their childhood. So when he was in the hospital, he remembered all of these fun moments and savored them.
Taiwanese culture and food are very important to me. I know many of these stories by heart; they were told to me by my family. I hope that one day I will be able to cook our traditional food and share our culture and history with the next generation. My family keeps the Taiwanese traditions going.
By Camille Chen, age 10, Asian American, California. This was selected as a Noteworthy Entry in our 2021 Youth Honor Awards program.