Wednesday, June 15, 2011

what's a real chinese meal like?

i'm in, robin, my jewish sis's car on the way to sabbath morning service and torah study. somehow our sabbath conversation turns to food. she says, can i get some real chinese food in berkeley. i say, yeah, but the one i really like is not in berkeley and the walls are covered with handwritten dish names that you don't find in the printed menus. robin says, yeah, i've seen that, and i don't really know what they are from the english translations. i say, you're right, they don't convey the depth and breadth of them. robin says, all right, so can you tell me what is a real chinese meal like? i pause for a moment or two. i say, okay, so here's a simple home meal i had recently.

check this out. a soup of american ginseng and black silk-bamboo chicken. slow cooked for hours, needless to say. my hostess got fresh fish from the tank. she didn't get the whole fish. robin says, why, i thought you eat the whole thing. i say, you're right but in this case my cousin, the hostess, makes an elegant decision because of what i like. robin says, which is what? i say, fish head. she braises the fish head with crumbled bean curd skin and shittake. i share the fish cheeks with my nephew. but the best part of this dish is the bean curd skin. it soaks up the essence of everything. the delicate texture and flavor of bean curd skin meld all the strong tastes into a rich and surreal whole. the fish tail is simply steamed with lots of julienne ginger and green onion. robin says, what about the rest of the fish? i chuckle and say, that's too tough for out palette because the fish is too big, we leave it for americans to do their fillet thing. robin laughs. i continue. for veggie there is stir fry hairy squash with dried shrimps. robin goes quiet before she says, you talk just like martin yang. i giggle, waggle a finger and say, uc-ah, i talk like me. robin says, that's right, that's right. robin has always been someone who strongly encourages me to speak up and speak for myself. during torah study sessions, every so often when i am not really sure if i want to say my two-cent amidst the fireworks of insights and comments robin would turn to me and say, do you have anything to say, suk wah? does she pick up my momentary contraction when i forget that the force of yhvh flows through me just as it does everyone else? i don't know. all i know is i am so fortunate to be able to enjoy all these fantastic and spectacular ancient traditions. i am a lucky chin-jew.

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