The meaning of food to me

The foods that are important to me and my family and cultural background are dumplings and Beijing zhajiangmian. Dumpling is one of the most famous and meaningful foods in China, which is a part of Chinese culture and tradition. In some particular festivals, every family makes dumplings together and celebrates. For example, in Chinese New Year, since the color and shape of dumpling are similar to the ancient silver ingots, people think it will bring wealth to the family. And traditionally, when people make dumplings together at New Year’s Eve, they usually hide a coin in one of the dumplings, and the one who finds the coin will have the most fortune in the coming year. Also, since the shape of dumplings is similar to ear, and people’s ear will turn red when suffering cold, then in the winter solstice day, Chinese will have dumplings which symbolizes they will not suffer from cold and hunger in the winter. Zhajiangmian is the special food in Beijing, and has a special history that when Eight-Nation Alliance invaded China and conquered Beijing, The Empress Dowager Cixi, Emperor Guangxu and their retinues were in their trip to Xi’an city and were amazed by the taste of zhajiangmian, then bring the chef who made that zhajiangmian dish to Beijing and palace. Dumplings and zhajiangmian are traditional Chinese food, and are important to me because they represent my home and my culture.

Dumplings and zhajiangmian also have special meaning for me. Every time I leave home for travel, my parents will make dumplings for me, and wish I will have a safe trip, since the filling inside the wrapper symbolizing completeness and completeness. I have been in US for three years, because the New Year Festival is in February, and I can’t celebrate with family in China, so I always make dumplings with my friends on New Year’s Eve. When I was little, my grandmother usually prepares fillings of minced meat and finely-chopped vegetables, my brother and I will wrap fillings in a thin and elastic dough skin, though my dumplings always look ugly. Usually when you have Chinese dumpling for dinner or lunch, you will not have to cook anything else, except for some big occasions. The dumpling itself is good enough for dinner. This is one of the advantage of Chinese dumpling over other foods, so when I always have dumplings in my refrigerator. I grow up in Beijing, and zhajiangmian is definitely one of the most important food in Beijing. The price of zhajiangmian is acceptable to everyone, and you can find zhajiangmina in every corner in Beijing, compared with Beijing roast duck, zhajiangmian is more like a standing dish. The method of making zhajiangmian is simple, just prepare various sliced vegetable, noodles, and fired yellow soybean paste. Noodles also have special meaning in China, since Chinese noodles are usually quite long, which symbolizes longevity. Thus, they are sometimes served when celebrating birthdays for elderly people, wishing them “longevity” of course. And I remembered most of my birthday were served with zhajiangmian. In China, dumplings and noodles are common selection as the last and first meal for hosting, especially those who have traveled a long distance, as in the common idiom “when leaving, eat dumplings; when arriving, eat noodles.”

I know there are a lot of Chinese people in Atlanta, especially in Buford and Duluth. Most Chinese restaurants serve dumplings, but only some serve Beijing zhajiangmian, since it is a dish popular in Beijing and northern area in China. Most Americans only try dumplings in Chinese restaurant but not zhajiangmian, and some people even think it doesn’t look good because of the dark sauce.



Dumpling’s receipt:

Mix pork, cabbage, 2 tablespoons chives, soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Place a dumpling wrapper on a lightly floured work surface and spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the middle. Wet the edge with a little water and crimp together forming small pleats to seal the dumpling. Repeat with remaining dumpling wrappers and filling.

Heat a large pot of water to a boiling, add a small pinch of salt. Then cook the dumplings in batches. Slightly move the dumplings with a large ladle or scoop so they will not sticky to the bottom. Then the water begins to boil again, add around 1/4 cup of cold water. Repeat once. When the dumplings become transparent and expand because of the air inside. Transfer out.


Beijing Zhajiangmian’s receipt:

In a bowl, dilute dry yellow soybean paste and sweet bean sauce (or hoisin sauce) with water. Set aside. Heat up oil in a wok (or a frying pan) over a medium high heat. Add star anise, spring onion (the green part) and ginger. Leave to sizzle until fragrant. Stir in pork and rice wine. Cook until the pork becomes pale. Pour in the diluted sauce. Bring it to a boil then leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Then boil on a full heat to thicken the sauce to the desired consistency. Stir in the white part of the spring onion.

Blanch beansprouts and green soybeans in boiling water (cucumber and radish are served raw). Take them out then drain. In the same pot, cook noodles. Drain and rinse under cold water for a few seconds.

Place noodles in four serving bowls, stir in the sauce then top with vegetables.




How to Make Chinese Dumplings from Scratch. Omnivore’s Cookbook.


Zha Jiang Mian (炸酱面): Beijing’s signature noodles. Red House Spice.

Michael Cheng


Food and Identity

The food that are common in my family are Chinese chicken soup, my grandma’s noodle soup with fried egg(荷包蛋), duck blood and vermicelli soup(鸭血粉丝汤), fried rice with eggs and some desserts include butterfly cookies(蝴蝶酥)and steamed dumplings(小笼包). I am from Shanghai China so that these foods are traditional Shanghai cuisines, especially eaten by the elderlies. Shanghainese people prefer sweeter and non-spicy food. Therefore, in all these food, I think we will add at least a little sugar. And they can be a little plain compare to other foods in China, like Sichuan foods, but these foods will make the eaters comfortable and satisfied. Also, because Shanghai is a city with a lot of western influence due to historical reasons, our food also reflected a combination of western and Chinese culture. For example, butterfly cookie is traditionally a western dessert but it’s very popular among the Shanghainese. However, after I came to the US, I discovered that the western butterfly cookies taste very different than Chinese butterfly cookies, in which Chinese butterfly cookies add more milk taste and less sugar into the cookies to meet Chinese’s taste preference. Thus, from Shanghainese butterfly cookies, I can see a mix of Chinese and western culture because this dessert preserves the shape and basic taste of western cookies while at the same time makes a few improvements to let it fit Chinese people’s taste. So, we can see a perfect combination of western and Chinese culture just from the butterfly cookies.

In addition, chicken soup, noodle soup and fried rice with eggs are personally very important to me. My mom sometimes cooks chicken soup to add more nutrients to my diet because she believes that after cooking long hours, the chicken will release its nutrients into the soup and make the soup taste delicious without adding any seasoning. Therefore, when I am really tired of homework, my mom always cooks me a bowl of chicken soup. To me, this chicken soup represents my mom’s love and her support to me. In fact, chicken soup is one of the things that I missed the most about China. Moreover, fried rice with eggs are important to me too because it represents my independence from my parents and my ability to cook for myself. After I went to Emory University, I experienced a huge food difference between China and US. In China, most of the vegetables are cooked and processed with salt, sugar, etc. However, in the US, I found lots of people like to eat salad, in which the vegetables are totally uncooked and cold. Because of this food difference, I decided to learn how to cook during the summer vacation back home. My mom taught me how to cook the simplest fried rice with eggs by just adding some salt, shallot, meat, pea and wine. By cooking this in the US, I got a taste of China and my family, and gain the ability to feed myself with my own effort.

I know there are Chinese and Korean communities in Atlanta, mainly around the Buford Highway area. In fact, Buford highway is my favorite place to go when I want to get a taste of Asian food. The first Chinese food I got in Atlanta is a Chinese hot pot called Chinese Little Sheep. In fact, the food there didn’t really meet my expectation because the soup was plain and the meat we had are not so fresh. Moreover, the seasonings are not as diverse as they are in China. Therefore, the first time in that restaurant was a little disappointed to me. However, I did get to talk to some Chinese in Chinese Little Sheep. She told me she was originally from GuangDong province in China. She had stayed in US for nearly 30 years. She had come back a few times to China, and she was surprised by how much China had changed in the past few years. Moreover, I went to lots of Korean restaurants in Atlanta too. I felt these restaurants make better Korean food than Korean restaurants in China. My favorite cuisines in there are the Toufu Soup and the Beef Ribs Stew. The Toufu soup has the tastes of spicy, sour and sweet. With the extra egg added and the hot rice beside, it will be a perfect choice of dish for winter. Beef Ribs Stew is to steam the beef ribs, mushrooms and eggs for hours to get all its taste into the soup. The method is very similar to some of the Chinese soup so that I could find a taste of home from that soup. Because of this, I kept coming back to that Korean restaurant to have the soup. Thus, I got familiar with the Chinese and Korean ethnic groups in Atlanta by going to their restaurants.

Food and Identity: Blog #1

Jiao zi shou le! Fan hao le! Kuai lai! Fan liang le, fan liang le! Xi shou, xi shou. Kuai lai kuai lai!

(Dumplings are ready! Food is ready! Come quickly! Food will be cold, food will be cold! Wash your hands, wash your hands. Come quickly come quickly!).

This rallying cry (which changes based on whichever item is being served) means that dinner is ready, and my mother takes pride in cooking traditional Chinese foods for her family members at least once per week. In my family, conversing around the dinner table is ritual – and growing up in a multicultural household, Chinese foods have always held a special significance to me. For example, we eat dumplings (jiao zi) in my family the day before each person’s birthday, and longevity noodles (chang shou mian) on the day of the actual birthday. While the dumplings we eat vary by season (cabbage, chives, zucchini, pumpkin, Chinese long beans, etc.), the filling is usually pork or shrimp in combination with the seasonal vegetable. The noodles, however, do not vary by season: Birthday longevity noodles are always the same – in my family, chang shou mian is always served in the form of zhajiang mian (noodles with pork and fermented soybean paste) – a Beijing specialty. Another new tradition in my family is eating a specific set of foods whenever I come home from Emory. These dishes include the following: hong shao pai gu (red-braised spare ribs with white rice), qing chao bai cai with you dou fu (stir-fried baby bok choy with deep-fried golden tofu),  and chao ou, which is the stir-fried root of the lotus flower. We also eat qie zi (eggplant) in many different forms, since Chinese preparations of eggplants (stir-fried, braised, stuffed with minced pork, steamed) actually comprise many of my favorite foods. Hong shao pai gu and qie zi (eggplant) dishes are both extremely popular in Northern China, respectively, but the other two dishes are Southern. Being that my mother is from Beijing (and very proudly so, she will never let me forget that), I find it funny that she always prepares the same Northern Chinese main dish (hong shao pai gu) for me whenever come home. Whenever I ate Chinese outside of the home in restaurants, however, it was usually Southern Chinese cuisine. I think that my mother chooses to make hong shao pai gu the main dish because it’s distinctly Northern Chinese – hong shao pai gu is always the main dish, supported by many different type of qie zi, and the two Southern entrees are always the sides. I believe that the two Southern dishes represent a concession on my mother’s part – if she had everything her way, she’d rather be making tu dou si (er) (stir-fried shredded potatoes) and xi hong shi chao ji dan (scrambed eggs with tomatoes) instead of these two Southern vegetarian entrees (Note: The “er” 儿 sound is extremely prominent in Northern China at the end of certain words in spoken Mandarin Chinese). My mother gives in wisely, however, knowing that her ability to stop my family from enjoying the rest of China’s cuisine outside of the North would be like trying to contain a waterfall with buckets – she also compromises on her menu items slightly because she loves me.

I eat these Chinese foods because they are lovingly prepared for me by my mother and they also represent home. While my mom taught me how to make some of them, they always turn out better when we cook together or she makes them for me by herself. My mother is extremely kind, loving, and detail-oriented – her grandmother taught her how to make some of these dishes – and because my twin brother lacks interest in cooking, I seem to her “only hope” (she has told me this before) to pass on the family’s recipes. Recipes in my family are not written down but have been passed down from generations cooking together. And while I try my best to replicate what she’s taught me when I cook by myself, it is her eye for detail and years of experience with cooking that allow her to create some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. She is a true master and artist in the kitchen: I hope to one day reach the level of her talents.

In Atlanta, I’ve had the experience of eating foods from around the world. Atlanta is also home to many other types of cuisines as well. Some cuisines I have particularly enjoyed in Atlanta include the following: Indian, Korean, Thai, Cuban, Mexican Ethiopian, Jamaican,  Italian, and Chinese. In Atlanta, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many different types of restaurants with some of my friends from these backgrounds at Emory. With regards to Indian cuisine specifically, my cousin lives in Atlanta and he married into an Indian family (that lives in Atlanta as well) – like my mother’s family, they have passed down their family recipes through generations also. For the Lakshmipathy family, three generations of Lakshmipathys live in the Atlanta, GA area, all within 10-15 minutes of each other. When I go to Kala and Pathy’s house (the parents of my cousin’s fiancé), I eat dosa, biryani, idlis, and sambar – and while I’ve never told my mother this (and never would), I think that Kala, my cousin’s mother-in-law, cooks some of the best food that I’ve ever tasted (definitely rivaling my mother’s). In addition to my experiences with eating Indian food in Atlanta at the Lakshmipathy houshold, the Korean food that I’ve tasted in Atlanta has also been better than any Korean food I’ve ever had in NYC,. Additionally, the Thai food at Little Bangkok in Atlanta exceeds that of my neighborhood Thai restaurant in quality and authenticity by tenfold. Moreover, La Fonda de Latina (Cuban/Mexican) is where I most often order takeout from. I sometimes order takeout from Desta (Ethiopian), Embilta (Ethiopian), or Nyamminz and Jamminz (Jamaican) as well. Additionally, with regards to Jamaican food, there’s a Jamaican restaurant in Sweet Auburn called Mangoes that some friends recently took me to as well – the interior is lively, decorated with flags from all over the Caribbean, and the food is awesome (especially the oxtails, which they seem to have made fresh, since we had to wait for an hour after we ordered them). With regards to Italian food in Atlanta, while I’ve not yet had the opportunity to try as many restaurants as I would have liked to have, I do enjoy dining on the pizza from Antico. And lastly, while the other cuisines I’ve tried within Atlanta are largely on par with NYC’s versions (if not better), the Chinese food is Atlanta is unfortunately not. While Atlanta has good Chinese food, New York City has the most Chinese people of any city outside of China, so given that the food is likely some of the best Chinese food outside of China as well. As much as I have tried to find many of Chinese foods from home that I enjoy eating on a regular basis, many of them are (unfortunately) either not as good as (and/or more expensive than) the versions of the same items that I can eat in NYC. For example, the one time I ordered hong shao pai gu in a restaurant, the portion was small and the taste was not as good as my mother’s – it also made me miss home. Lastly, certain Chinese foods that I enjoy eating in NYC on a regular basis don’t exist at all on restaurant menus in Atlanta.

Photos of Foods:

(From Top –> Bottom)

1) Dumplings 饺子 (Consumed throughout China)

2) Dosa (Southern Indian)

3) Idli w/Sambar (Southern Indian)

4) Red-Braised Pork Spare Ribs 红烧排骨 (Northern Chinese)

5) Stir-fried Baby Bok Choy with Deep-Fried Golden Tofu 清炒白菜和油豆腐 (Southern Chinese)

6) Stir-fried Lotus Root 炒藕 (Note: While Lotus Roots are grown and eaten throughout China, especially in winter time in soup preparations, much of the crop is grown in the South. The far North of China is not temperate enough for the lotus flowers to grow).

7) Noodles with Pork and Fermented Soybean Paste 炸酱面 (Beijing/Northern Chinese dish)

8) Stir-fried Shredded Potatoes 土豆丝儿

9) Stir-fried Eggs with Tomatoes 西红柿炒鸡蛋 (Note: This dish is actually enjoyed throughout China to my knowledge, but my mother insists that it’s Northern Chinese. It’s also her favorite dish).

Food Pho Thought

One step, two steps, a stumble.

The toddler waddles her way across the street, towards metal carts with pots of steaming broth, fresh noodles, warm baguettes, and fragrant herbs. Greeting the vendor with a familiar grin, she plops down and happily devours the noodle soup.

That’s one of my first memories as a toddler: a never-ending stream of rain and mopeds on unpaved streets, a never-ending stream of faces in the crowd, and a gathering of the faces I loved around a rickety table. And in the middle — piping hot bowls of phở, wrappers from bánh mì (baguettes), or plates of bánh xèo (savoury pancakes). My familys restaurants were never out of reach; there on the street, I would savor food made by neighbors, by family, by loved ones. Congested streets and stuffy air faded away, defeated by the sublime dishes cooked right outside the vendors’ houses and diffused with the same dedication and love they put into meals for their own families. That’s one of the charming phenomenons of my motherland that I miss most: “street food” was almost synonymous with home-cooked food. With each bite, there was laughter, teasing, gossip, snot, and tears (reminder: toddler). There, at the intersection of crossroads, lies the intersection of my life with those I loved, and those I would meet and come to love. The wobbly plastic stools, the smoke from vehicles — sure, it wasn’t fine dining, not in the slightest, but the memories that those dishes gifted me is something I would never trade, not even for the finest gastronomy in the world.


Phở. I don’t believe this requires much of an explanation; it is the one dish that flashes in our minds at the mention of Vietnamese cuisine. There’s no doubt that it is one of — if not, the — quintessential Viet comfort food. Nothing quite compares to the contentment brought by hot broth warming up your throat, satisfying slurps of chewy noodles, and bright notes of sweet herbs.


Bánh mì. The ultimate Vietnamese fast food. Baguettes filled with barbecued or cold meats (or for me, tofu), generously lathered with sauces and liver paste, and stuffed with pickled carrots, daikon, and cilantro. The salty-sweet combination of thick cuts of protein and tangy veggies on buttery toasted bread? Sorry, Subway.


Bánh xèo. Literally, “sizzling cake.” Shrimp or pork, bean sprouts, mung beans, and herbs, wrapped in crispy rice batter. Vietnamese pancakes, Vietnamese crepes — whatever you call them, they are bound to satisfy the savoury breakfast cravings.


These foods that bring back memories of my childhood are native to Vietnamese culture, but all three are widely imprinted with French influences. As Vietnam was once colonized by France, aspects of the French culture have left their mark on Vietnam’s, such as the language (the romanization from Chinese-based characters was completed by a Frenchman) and, of course, the cuisine. French roots are even embedded in phở’s name; the dish is pronounced “fuh,” almost exactly like the French word feu in pot-au-feu (“pot-on-fire”), which references the French dish that requires an extended amount of time to stew and boil bone broth to arrive at the same deeply aromatic flavor iconic in phở. Bánh mì, meanwhile, became a classic in using some of the classics of France’s cuisine: the baguette and liver pâté. And bánh xèo is quite literally the Vietnamese version of the thin French crêpe, but with savoury fillings. These foods, these emblems of Vietnamese cuisine, in fact nest emblems of another culture. The realization strikes me every time, serving as a reminder of the extent of colonization and its everlasting effects. And as I grew up, I realized that influence has made its mark on me; my passion for French culture pushes me to pursue French studies in college. Although I have left Vietnam, I am ironically almost a product of that cultural colonization and influence — a reflection of the very dishes I adore.

The rest of my adolescence passed in Arizona, where heat and intensity permeated the air, but vanished from non-native cultural cuisines. At the restaurants, I grimaced at broth from packaged containers, leftover mushy noodles, and week-old bread. Gone was the vibrant street life, gone was the time loved ones spent together. Everything became entangled in the whirlwind of work and school. Thankfully, the latter brought me here to the south, where I have found a refreshing change of atmosphere. I’d chosen Georgia, attracted by Emory’s diversity in thought; instead, I fell for Atlanta’s diversity in spirit. What originally struck me as a rusty, monochromatic city soon became a bustling center of life. I was fortunate enough to visit cultural events and centers along Duluth and especially Buford Highway (I actually inhabit Buford more often than my own dorm room). The means through which I was able to better understand and explore these places were the restaurants and the food. As I sit around tables with friends and professors, laughing and conversing as we savor heavenly hot pots, Korean rice cakes, or even boba tea, I am reminded of the power of food to bring people together, to establish or strengthen our relationships with one another, to create experiences and memories. In the end, “we are what we eat” — and who would we be without our memories, experiences, and connections?

I hope the Noodle class will help us to further create such connections with the food topics, the cultures, and especially with each other. As for me, I will continue midnight restaurant-hopping my way down Buford (phở tastes especially exquisite at 2 a.m.), and with people I cherish. After all, there’s still so much left of Atlanta to discover — and I cannot wait to take yet another one step, two steps, and stumble across something wonderful.

Blog 1: Growing Up as a Vietnamese American

As an elementary schooler, I did not understand why my family never cooked pizza or lasagna for dinner like my friends ate. Instead, there were weird soups made from weird animal parts. I didn’t understand that my family was different and that we weren’t the typical American family betrayed on Disney channel. It wasn’t until the cultural week at my school that I realized I wasn’t just American but Vietnamese American. Slowly afterward, I began to embrace my culture and the foods that came with it.

Question 1: Growing up as a Vietnamese American, I’ve eaten everything from pho to pizza (or as my parents pronounce it “pissa”). My Mom was raised in Vietnam and was taught how to cook traditional Vietnamese cuisine. For breakfast, I would often wake up to the smell of banh xeo (Vietnamese yellow crepes/pancakes) or scrambled eggs and bacon. For lunch, I would have the basic chocolate milk, a piece of fruit, and a cheeseburger, but for dinner, there would be a nice warm bowl of lemongrass noodle soup called bun bo hue. I’ve eaten snakes, black turkeys, and every part of a pig and cow including their blood. Instead of chocolate or vanilla smoothies, I grew up with sinh to bo which is a simple blend of ice, whole milk, sugar, and fresh avocados. In grocery stores, pocky and yam yams filled the isles instead of traditional chocolate bars. I was raised in a Vietnamese household but sometimes have the taste buds for a greasy cheeseburger. I embrace both cultures and appreciate the unique flavors each have to offer.

Bun Bo Hue: A spicy lemongrass noodle soup served with herbs and vegetables


Question 2: As a child, I LOVED egg rolls and spring rolls (goi cuon). Not only for their amazing taste, but for the memories associated with them. My mom would only make egg rolls when there would be big parties with my family. Food was a way to bring together my distant aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sometimes my family hosted parties and relatives from Florida would drive up to see us. Food would always be an icebreaker for me. When people began to eat, they began to open up and talk. As a result, whenever I would be meeting a new cousin or second aunt, I would offer them food and connect with how delicious everything was. This was the same in school except instead of discussing pho and durian, I would connect over curly fries, pizza, and burgers.

Goi Cuon: Spring rolls filled with vegetables and shrimp. It’s wrapped in banh trang.


Question 3: Georgia is my home state and I’ve enjoyed the various communities this state offers. Atlanta is a unique city with many ethnic groups living together. I enjoy living in Atlanta because there are so many opportunities to explore different cultures through food. For instance, I know there is a huge korean population in Georgia and I’ve experienced my fair share of traditional dishes like haejang-guk and bibimbap. Atlanta is also home to multiple bubble tea shops which sell a sweet twaininese drink with tapioca pearls. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of getting getting bubble tea every chance I get. I just can’t help how delicious these drinks are. I haven’t explored as much of Atlanta as I would want, but I hope with my years at Emory I get a chance to try even more tasty dishes.

Image result for pho puns


My Food Upbringing

I grew up biracial, with one Asian parent and one Caucasian parent. My father was born in Thailand and considers himself Thai, but has ethnic Chinese lineage. My parents actually met in Japan. My mother really did not cook or have any cultural foods she passed on to us. Therefore, I grew up on a blend of Asian foods; mostly Chinese and Thai, with a Japanese influence. When I think of food that is important to my family, there are several foods that come to mind. My parents moved to the United States when they knew they were having their first child (me), and with that move my father left his life in Thailand behind for the most part. All of his other siblings and family have remained in Thailand, to this day. Shortly after he moved to the United States, his mother passed away. She taught him everything he knew about cooking, and I think cooking for us helped him keep his cultural identity, and also helped remind him of his mother cooking for him as he grew up. When I think of the food I ate growing up, the first food I think of is rice, always served soft and steaming. There was always one or more rice cookers in my house, and rice was served with every dinner, no matter what. We would often eat rice with homemade Thai green chicken curry. The curry always contained a delicate blend of spices and herbs, green beans, soft chicken, and just the right amount of coconut milk. I can smell it as I write. The ingredients were purchased from our local Asian supermarket. Creating curry with coconut milk came straight from my father’s Thai background, and using coconut milk is a frequent characteristic of Thai cooking. As a child, I remember seeing cans and spice packets with characters I could not read, and that always meant we were in for a delicious meal.

We also had eggs with almost every dinner. Eggs were typically prepared one of two ways. First, we often had a kind of egg omelette made with soy sauce, scallions, and garlic. It was served like a pancake and we would cut it into pizza slice-like triangles to be portioned out for everyone at the table. Just as often, we would eat boiled eggs. Looking back on it, our tradition of eating boiled eggs held a special significance. My father grew up in rural Thailand in a small home with his seven brothers and sisters. He told us that for birthdays, the birthday boy or girl would always receive one gift from their mother. That gift was one hard-boiled egg. This was special because he lived on a farm with many chickens, and they would usually collect and sell the eggs in town. The act of eating a hard boiled egg, though it may not seem significant to us, was actually a treat that my father and his siblings looked forward to greatly. So, the fact that my family was able to eat eggs (hard-boiled or otherwise) every night was a tradition that carried personal significance. I feel a great appreciation for his upbringing now that I look at it from this point of view.

As I mentioned, rice was served at every dinner. However, we rarely ate rice without some sort of complement. We sprinkled “fu,” a traditional dried pork product, over the rice whenever we could find it. My father would often buy “fu” on his trips to Asia, so it was always a special treat when it was in the house. As such, the “fu” supply was rationed and limited, and we viewed it as an extra special treat. Frequently my sibling and I would argue about who got more fu than the other at one meal, or we would accuse one another of stealing extra fu when no one was looking. They were such fun, wonderful meals together. It may sound unusual, but the dried salty sweetness of fu has to be tried to be appreciated. Another  favorite accompaniment to rice was “nori,” or dried seaweed. We would eat the nori out of big jars from the Asian supermarket. Now, I still eat nori with rice with my dinner as frequently as I can. We ate the fu because my father always loved it as a kid and he wanted us to be able to enjoy it, too. The nori was a popular food in Japan when my parents lived there, so they brought that tradition home. It was a nod to their time in Japan.

Last but certainly not least, my family regularly attended Sunday Dim Sum together. I would get so excited every time I knew we were going to dim sum; I feel excited just thinking about it right now. My father insisted that most Chinese restaurants in the United States were not authentic, but he assured us that the Dim Sum places he took us were authentic. Sometimes we would even go into Chinatown in New York City to get dim sum if we were feeling especially adventurous. We always ordered “cha shu bao” buns, shiny white buns filled with sweet pork in a red paste. Other favorites were shrimp shu mai and sticky rice. My personal favorite was turnip cakes, a solid turnip puree that was grilled and then sliced into rectangles. As we ate sticky rice with pork, we always heard the same story about how farmers in China and Thailand would eat sticky rice for breakfast early in the morning so that they could fill up their bellies before the long day of work ahead. I guess that explains why I always felt so full afterwards!

When I studied abroad in Spain, I gained exposure to a multitude of different ethnic communities. I lived with South Korean roommates, who taught me all about creating food carefully and with beautiful presentation. They would often make a triangle shaped food called “kimbabp,” and I will never forget how carefully they shaped the food and folded the edges into a perfect triangle. In addition, I had German friends in Spain who would make meats and a lot of egg noodles. In addition, they put mayonnaise on anything they could, such as meats, French fries, salads, etc. To be honest, it sometimes seemed that the food was just a vehicle for mayonnaise. The cultural affinity for beer among my German friends, however, was another story. Lastly, while I was in Spain I was able to experience what it meant to live like a European. More than any specific food, I learned that Spaniards enjoy their meals and take their time eating. They eat heartily and happily, with wine to accompany all good food. I admire the Spanish way of eating. In addition, the warmer the weather was, the later that people in Spain ate dinner. They valued happiness and enjoying their surroundigs outdoors, which I tried to adopt at the time.

I am very grateful for my upbringing, and the way that I was exposed to so many foods outside the American cultural norm at such a young age. Honestly, I have never thought about my family’s food history in such great depth and detail until now. I realize it is really remarkable the way that my father kept his cultural identity and traditions alive with food and cooking. I do not speak Thai or Chinese, but I do know how to cook traditional Chinese and Thai dishes. Those skills are part of my identity, and cooking and eating those foods reminds me of home and fills me with happiness. My family’s cultural traditions will continue through the food we make, eat, and pass on to the next generation.



Thai Green Curry


1 1/2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons 
green curry paste , Mae Ploy brand preferred
8 oz chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
4 oz bamboo shoot
5 kaffir lime leaves, lightly bruised
2 red chilies, cut into thick strips
1 tablespoon 
fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar or palm sugar (preferred)
1/4 cup Thai basil leaves


Heat up a pot over medium heat and add the oil. Saute the green curry paste until aromatic, add the chicken and stir to combine well with the curry paste. Add the coconut milk and water and bring it to a quick boil.

Add the bamboo shoots, kaffir lime leaves, and red chilies. Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot and let simmer for 10 minutes or until the curry slightly thickens.

Add the fish sauce, sugar, and basil leaves. Stir to mix well. Turn off the heat and serve immediately with steamed rice.



Above: Fresh, steaming rice in a rice cooker

Below: Fu, a dried shredded pork, over rice

Above: a version of the egg and scallion omelette. This particular photo shows that other vegetables were added; my family often ate the egg omelette with whatever vegetables were fresh and available, too.

Below: Fu as it is often sold in Asian grocery stores. It can be sold as pictures, in plastic canisters or in plastic bags.

Bottom: Traditional Thai green curry. This curry has hot peppers added, which is typical.

The Noodle of My Culture

One of the important food items that represents my family and cultural background is the tortilla. Being born in Mexico and immigrated into the United States, I remember the tortilla being a critical part of my everyday life. At my home tortillas accompany our meals for dinner practically each day. The tortilla definitely is a big part of Hispanic cultures, it is the noodle of our culture. What is amazing about the tortilla is that we can use it in many different ways and forms. For example, a renowned food in Hispanic cultures that uses tortillas is the taco. The foundation for the famous taco is the tortilla as it is what holds the ingredients in place. Each taco is named differently based on the ingredients it contains. One of the famous tacos is named tacos de lengua. The main ingredient in this taco is beef tongue. Another traditional Mexican dish where the basis is the tortilla is chilaquiles. Chilaquiles is made up of broken pieces of tortillas with salsa, cream, and cheese. More ingredients can be added. In other dished, tortillas does not have to be the basis but can serve as a complementary. For example, in traditional Mexican dishes that contains beans or rice, tortillas can be used to scoop up these ingredients. In my family, the tortillas has often come to replace traditional eating utensils such as a spoon and a fork. It serves many functions.

On a personal level, one reason I believe we eat tortillas so much is because it helps us fill our stomachs faster. This would make sense since there is a lot of poverty in Mexico and the area where I come from. It was hard to keep food on the table. I can notice the difference when I eat my beans and rice with tortillas and without tortillas. If I eat without tortillas, I remain hungry and in need of more food. Tortillas are relatively cheap to make so many families in Mexico use them in their dishes. Although I believe this, there is more to tortillas than just the cheap cost as a replacement meal. It is significant in our culture because it talks about who we are. The tortilla has definitely influenced who I am as a person and the way I grew up. It has taught me to always remain humble and grateful for what I have. It tells me to appreciate any meal that I have on my table. The tortilla is significant in our culture because it allows for families to have food on their table.

I personally have not been able to explore Atlanta much to know a whole lot about ethnic communities there. From what I know is that there is a lot of diversity in Atlanta as it is a busy and heavily populated city. From the little experiences I have had, one fun thing is that students in Atlanta as a whole currently have a crave for bubble tea, a Taiwanese drink made from milk and tapioca. Interestingly, although people from the area have turned the drink into a whole big thing, Taiwanese students don’t seem to be as affectionate towards the drink as other students. It would be intriguing to learn more about this drink and how it is view from the eyes of Taiwanese people and foreigners.

 Tacos de Lengua

 Chilaquiles Tortillas!

Blog 1: Food that Impact our Lives

I believe that food is one of the easiest way to explore cultures. It approaches people very gently, yet can have a big impact on the person. I was born and raised in South Korea until I moved to the United States when I was in second grade. Both of my parents have lived in Korea for majority of their life time, meaning that I ate variety of Korean food. For me, the biggest impact I have had with food would be Korean, since I grew up in a Korean household. Korean food are mostly based on soy sauce, red chili paste, or soy bean paste. All of the foods made have at lease one or more of the sauces above. Although they have similar bases, all of the foods have unique qualities and specialties that differentiate one from another. For me, some of the most important foods in the Korean culture would be kimchi and Korean style braised short ribs (galbijjim). These foods hold a special part in my heart as I ate them often with my family and friends.

First, kimchi is a common side dish that would be out for every meal in all households. It is made of salted and fermented cabbage that is seasoned with scallions, chili powder, ginger, and garlic. Each household would have different types, but will also vary in recipes as families all have their secret touches. I believe that this is one of the most important food for me because since the kimchi vary from one place to another, the one that I eat at home is special and a reminder that I am home. Since this is also a side dish that was consumed all throughout the history of Korea, I believe that it represents the Korean culture very well. This dish is also special for me as I helped conduct research with Professor Hahm in the past years. Previous researches showed that kimchi had anti-inflammatory effects on mice and humans and can even prevent Helicobacter pylori associated gastric cancers. Therefore, this dish is even more special for me as a biology major, since it can have positive effects on people.

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Second, the braised short ribs (galbijjim) are also very important part of who I am today. One of my favorite dishes that my mom would make for me was galbijjim. Galbijjim is steamed braised short ribs that is cooked in sweet brown sauce with vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, and radish. This dish would take quite a while to cook, but my mom was always more than happy to make this for my brother, dad, and me. I have been living in the States since 2nd grade, and I always eat this dish when I am back at home in Korea. No matter where I go, there is no recipe that can compare to my mom’s. Another special aspect that leads me to eating more galbijjim would be that the recipe has been passed on to my mom by my grandmother; this makes me feel even more nostalgic. Not only does this dish hold an important place in my heart, but it also is important history.  Galbijjim has a big historical and cultural aspect since this dish was eaten in palaces by the kings as a specialty, since beef was considered to be rare goods back in the past. Today, this dish is still included in majority of households as a celebratory food that is included in all types of occasions.

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Atlanta has a wide variety and representation of different ethnic communities, but I am most familiar with the Korean community as I am part of KUSA and I strive to spread the Korean culture to others around campus. Also, Atlanta is said to have the second greatest Korean population in the United States. There are at least two big Korean towns representing the population and its culture called Doraville and Duluth. Here, you can get all types of food and goods that remind Korean people of Atlanta of their homes and introduce new culture to other people. I have visited these towns very often to eat Korean food and they taste quite similar to the ones that I eat back in Korea. One of my favorite gogi places would be Miss Gogi. Although I have had many interactions with the restaurants, I am not familiar with other types of of Korean businesses and experiences in Atlanta. Not only are Korean restaurants and stores in these towns, they are also spread out in the heart of Atlanta, such as Midtown and Buckhead. I believe that Atlanta has a wide representation of Korean culture and our community.

Links to the photos used above:

Blog 1: Homestyle

As an Asian-American adopted by American Caucasian parents, I have a very unique experience growing up in the south with relationship to food. Yet, most of the foods that I associate with my family or cultural background are not representational of my personal cultural heritage. My parents grew up across the southeastern states and their taste in food reflects a “home-style” type of cooking made of fresh vegetables, red meats, wheat, and plenty of fat. My family always had Sunday dinner after church and often dinner together in the evenings during the weeknights. My mother was a stay-at-home mom for most my childhood, so I can remember the time spent with her in the kitchen learning to make recipes that she made with her mother, and so on. However, looking back, my relationship with food was always strongly influenced by the places we lived. I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. My grandparents are from Tampa, Florida and Brunswick, Georgia. These locations have very distinct memories and associations with food as a social experience.

In Charleston, food is usually the best excuse to throw a party. The Charleston Harbor is guaranteed the best place to find fresh shrimp, fish and oysters. A tip from my grandparents that my mother always followed: go down to the docks early in the morning right after the fisherman get in, then buy the seafood by the pound to get it as fresh as possible, better than even the farmer’s markets. In my opinion, the food that embodies the spirit of Charleston would be the Low Country Boil, aka Frogmore Stew, aka Beaufort Stew and oyster roasts. Both great names for dishes and events for the social calendar, these idealize the spring and fall in the city. Low country boils were often held in the late spring, early summer, when it’s warm enough to dine al fresco, but not too hot that humidity ruins the evening. Typically hosted on a patio and backyard, low country boils are made outside on a gas burner in a giant pot filled with white wine, halved lemons, red potatoes, whole or halved ears of corn, sausage, halved Vidalia onions and of course, piling pounds of shrimp, with a little garlic and seasoning. When it’s done boiling, the pot is drained and dumped on a communal table which is lined with newspapers for everyone to share– no plates necessary. The rule is to keep it simple, ears of corn are shucked, but you have to peel your own shrimp, which allows plenty of conversation time in between bites. In the fall, oyster season peaks (during the months that end in “r”) when the water is chilly. The same concepts apply – whole oysters bake in a large pot outside, then dumped on a communal table for people to shuck and enjoy.

The enjoyment from these foods stems from the enjoyment of socialization. Every step of the way, whether its sourcing the shrimp or harvesting the onions from the garden or picking up meat from the market, the chef, my mother, made connections with our family, community, and even the fishermen. The cultural significance to me, though it may not be Asian-influenced, very much feels like home. Just imagining the warm breeze, smells of the Old-Bay seasoning or the crinkling of the newspaper can transport me straight back to Charleston. Gathering with family and friends, walking along the beach around sunset, and eating together at one long table becomes a comforting ritual. Much like Thanksgiving, the food is gives a warmth to a home and the act of gathering makes it feel complete. The aspect of family tradition, after graduations, wedding showers and just celebration create my family’s traditions which motivates me to share it when I have a family of my own.

Some of my family lives in Atlanta, so I’ve traveled here often before starting at Emory. I am also a freelance writer for Atlanta magazine, so we often cover diverse restaurants, events and openings. Particularly, Buford Highway has come to national attention for its diverse range of authentic food from family-owned businesses. This provides both comforts for Atlanta’s international community, but also boosts the region economically as it is its own tourist destination. I’ve visited many restaurants and assisted on the dining coverage for the magazine, but other than dining, I’ve never really engaged with anyone at the restaurants. I am aware of the large push for sustainability and access to fresh food for the low-income areas which can affect ethnic minorities, but I would be interested in learning more on the subject. Other than when I was born and when I went to China at age 5 to pick up my adopted sister from Hunan, I haven’t had much exposure to Chinese food. I love going to Asian restaurants and trying new foods with my friends at Emory who were raised culturally in Asian households, as it’s almost like discovering my culture. I don’t speak Mandarin, but I have learned some through when I visit restaurants and speak with the waiters or waitresses which is very unique way of absorbing the culture. One thing my parents really enjoyed to do was taste different Chinese candy on their visit, so I remember buying pop-rocks candy and tasting new candy almost every day of that vacation. I would love to see if any restaurants or markets sell those locally. It may bring up some more memories or provide a new way to connect with the culture.

The phrase, “you are what you eat” both supports and contradicts my approach to food. When I spend time with my family eating Low Country Boil in Charleston,  I am (or feel very) American like my family. Yet, when I eat Chinese food, especially with Asian friends who were raised in that culture, it becomes drastically less familiar. Though technically I am more like the food (genetically/physically related to the culture), I feel that I am Chinese in that setting.

Low Country Boil Recipe – courtesy to Trisha Yearwood for The Food Network


1/2 cup concentrated Louisiana-style shrimp and crab boil seasoning (such as Zatarain’s)

4 pounds medium red potatoes

2 to 3 medium sweet onions, such as Vidalia, peeled and quartered if large

2 1/2 pounds cured, smoked pork sausage links, cut into 3-inch pieces

8 ears of corn, cut in half

4 pounds medium shrimp


Fill a 7-gallon stockpot halfway with water (or use 2 large pots and divide the ingredients between them). Add the seasoning and bring to a rolling boil. Add the whole potatoes to the pot. Allow the water to return to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Add the onions and sausage. Bring the water back to a boil and cook 15 minutes. Add the corn, bring the water back to a boil and cook 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are done.

Add the shrimp, bring the water back to a boil and cook until the shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Drain through a colander; discard the liquid. Serve on newspaper or a platter.

Creating Tradition: Ethiopoan Food


    Awaze Tibs Beauty A120809 Food & Wine Gastronaut & Ethiopian Nov 2012

Ethiopian food has always been special to my family, it has been a marker of important events like birthdays or graduations and a comfort food in times of stress or sadness. It was through my knowledge of Ethiopian food that I my best friend in middle school. As third generation Americans, my parents have very few ties left to the cultures that they originally came from. American culture is so obtuse and blended that I think my parents felt the urge to come up with their own traditions. Instead of celebrating cultural significance, they chose to celebrate personal significance. They spent a lot of time working in Ethiopia and Kenya, my father as an anthropologist and my mother as a nurse. When my siblings and I were born we were fed tibs and injera on the regular and they quickly became our favorite foods. Tibs is a spicy beef dish (but it can be lamb as well) with tomato and berbere (a traditional Ethiopian spice). It often includes a hardboiled egg which my siblings and I fought for. Instead of utensils a flat spongey bread called injera is used to scoop up the food.

The first time I met my future best friend, I had just moved to New York from Colorado and I was feeling very insecure in my new setting but I noticed he was eating injera so I asked him about it, and that conversation led to a close friendship. Even during times when my family was very busy and I would sometimes hardly see my brother and sister, we would all get together on Sunday and make a big Ethiopian meal for dinner. When I was first diagnosed with my disorder my dad went out and picked up tibs for everyone so we would have it waiting for us when we got back from the hospital. It has been a marker of almost every major life event I have had so far. Ethiopian food reminds me of my family and how caring and supportive they are. As cliché as it may sound it brings us together, even in busy and unpredictable times.

I feel ashamed to admit that just about the only thing I know about ethnic communities in Atlanta is through the availability and variety of food around where I live. When I lived in upstate New York my family would make a two-hour drive to the nearest Ethiopian restaurant around once a month but when I got to Atlanta I found that there were at least three different Ethiopian restaurants within walking distance of my apartment. I have tried maybe six or seven different Ethiopian restaurants in Atlanta now and each one has their own way of preparing and presenting the dishes. Some of them have a normal dining set up while others use a more traditional short table made of woven fibers. Each dish is spiced slightly differently. Sometimes the dished are so different, calling them by the same name seems strange. I also have a little experience with the refugee communities housed on the outskirts of Atlanta. During a filming project I worked in a community made up of Syrian families. The family that I spent the most time with always served tea and fresh fruit to us when we visited. Exploring how people who have been wrenched from their homes and transplanted into a completely new culture hang on to cultural traditions in the form of food and food practices would be very interesting to study. Since most of the physical possessions these people owned have long since been destroyed, cultural practices and things like stories and recipes could be extremely important in connecting them with their ancestry and homes.