My people abroad talk about the Chinese stomach and how
hard they find it to adapt and how they long for authentic
Chinese food. I, on the other hand, have found that I could
train myself to enjoy many ethnic staples. And indeed, besides
the occasional hotpots and stir-fries, the only regular (about
twice a month) Chinese dish I cook has been Mapo Tofu.
Among my foreign (Korean, Mexican, Italian, etc.) dishes
are three dips: the guacamole, the tapenade, and
the hummus. The way we have them is similar to that
Northeastern people dip vegetables in fermented soybean
paste. And, following that tradition, we call the veggies
affectionately ZhanJiangCai (蘸酱菜).
To make the guacamole, I would quarter one large ripe
avocado, peel off and dice one onion leaf (this preserves
the rest of the onion for future use.), throw in some finely
chopped cilantro, squeeze lemon juice, add salt and cumin
powder, and mash and mix everything in the bowl. For years,
it had been enjoyed with commercial tortilla chips until my
recent reading on oil. We have switched to fresh tortilla
(that has a short shelf-life), produced by a local family
firm. All three of us love them.
About four weeks ago, I discovered the tapenade, a mixure of
olives (pitted), capers, anchovies, parsley, lemon juice and
olive oil. It was a huge hit. For one thing, this month, we
have consumed 12 lbs of baby carrots after not having any
for a year or two. The contrast between the bland veggie and
the salty, fatty, and acidic sauce was irresistable for mom and
me. Tim was cautious, however. He's young and there's hope.
I made the hummus in the past with limited success but
decided, upon the tapenade success, to bring it back to
enrich our diet. But first, I need to make tahini and in the
end plan to soak my own garbanzo beans. If I get all my
ingredients top-quality, it is going to stay.
Learning to cook traditional foreign dishes has been
infinitely rewarding. I got acquainted with ingredients
previously exotic to me and learnt about them as much as
my interest took me. The dishes and ingredients have stories,
represent cultures, and re-occur in other contexts. This
learning increases my vocabulary tremendously and allows
me to communicate effectively with people.