When kath is blogging

Bacons, eggs, hash browns and a pair of chopsticks. -Part 1

Posted in Food by Katharine on March 18, 2009

Let me give you a brief background information about me first. I was born and grew up in Hong Kong (which I still prefer to call it “Hong Kong, Hong Kong” instead of “Hong Kong, China”.  There are differences between the two, but it’s not the point in this article.) When I was 17, I moved over to the United States. Spending a year in the sunny friendly California, and then traded it for studying fashion design in the snow-in-winter and humind-in-summer New York. After spending five years in the big apple, I’m back to where I was, Hong Kong.

Six years ago, when my relatives knew that I was going to study in California, most of them concern about my diet. “Eat more of this dim sum now, when you get there, it’ll hard for you to find this Chinese food.” However, they all think that I’d do just fine, as I was going to live with my brother and sister over there, my relatives believes that they will take care of me just fine and have my dinner at home in Chinese style. Then they’ll move on to other topics regarding living abroad.

So how my diet was like in Mountain View, California? The first big change was the big grocery time that happened once a week. It was a whole family activity. My brother grabbed his car key and we all headed to Ranch 99 in Cupertino. Buying pork or chicken comes in a pack, some Chinese sauce from brands that I’m familiar with in Hong Kong, and some asian leafy vegetables. It was interesting that I never knew a lot of those vegetable’s name until I stepped in this Taiwanese supermarket in America. When I was in Hong Kong, we always bought our vegetables from an Old lady who sold on the ground arcoss the stree from where we lived. She didn’t know how to write of course, and I remember my mom always went up to her and asked her directly how much was this and that. I never notice what those vegetables called and how would their names looks in Chinese characters. At ranch 99, we would also buy some other chinese food products like mochi and some microwaved congees. It was a little strange to see these products in a brand name that’s unknown to me, and the package design makes them look like they are not safe to eat.

We bought all these ingredient home, and my sister would cook some rice, cook the meat with some spicy asian broth (mostly with bean curd and tiny mushroom, she loves that), and then fried some vegetables. Voila, we got our dinner, AND our lunch box for the day after.

Besides Ranch 99, we also went to a Japanese supermarket to buy some funky Japanese snacks and ramen noodles in fun flavor. Of course, I had my American experience at Costco.

It was a bit of a cultural shock to walk in to this place that really presents the American way of living. Things sold in a huge quantity at a lower cost. Big pile of polo shirt that are in China, canned soup that comes in a pack of 12, cereals wrapped up together with 2 or 3 big boxes. The place is just like a giant storage. My sister would go to buy the spare ribs (which is pretty much the only time she uses the oven, and spare ribs doesn’t always appear at my home’s menu, it’s a special/luxury thing). She’ll also get some eggs, this one is in normal quantity though, and she would inspect every single eggs in the box, just to make sure none of them is cracked. I guess that make sense to be a bit more careful when buying easy breakables from a giant storage. Since then I started to inspect all my eggs in every grocery store……

So after a trip to costco, we’d be eating pork that was bought in a big pack and cut up in 4 to 6 portions by my sister at the kitchen. A few nights of pasta in alfredo sauce with sausages, and a four cheese pizza or peperoni in some occasion. For dessert, we have plain cheese cake from the cheesecake factory.

As I’ve mentioned before, we made lunch boxes. However there are times when I left it in the fridge or we had jack-in-the-box the night before and don’t have a lunch box. This is the time when I’d eat at the school cafeteria. At first I only know to say “can I have a slice of this?” and point my finger to a pizza. At that time I really wish that they have a little name card for those pizza. Pizza in Hong Kong is a bit different, with lots of ingredients on, which isn’t the case in a school cafeteria. But you get used to it, and started to associate the plain cheese pizza with dried red chilli flakes with America. The chilli flakes on pizza is on of my favorite discovery in the states. pizza hut or dominos should have start to serve those in their Hong Kong locatoins.

Sometimes, my brother and sister would take me out for lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Cupertino. Dim Sum in Hong Kong Style but with an American price tag. You can get the typical dim sun there, but I have to say, it does taste a bit different than those in Hong Kong. The quality is just a tad lower. But it’s the only options for dim sum, so i don’t have that much complains about it. My brother would order the fried crab claws. This is something that you will never order at a Chinese restaurants in Hong kong as dim sum. Boy oh boy, I still miss those juicy crab claws today.

So after a year of this, with more experience in Vietnames pho, some french, Italian and Greek restaurants in Palo Alto. I was off to New York. My diet experience in California was basically following what my brother and sister eat. They lived there for a few years already, and they try their best to search for good Asian food that gives them the sense of home or reminds them of their root, even being thousands miles away from home. It was my first experience to see what the Asian food culture is like in America, and how we change our diet after relocating from Asia to America.

-End of Part I-

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