Save your culinary history

Natalie Com Liu cooks her Hakka dishes in her kitchen in Lima, Peru as I record her recipes.

Zester Daily invited me to write a piece for Soapbox.  I struggled over the subject and wrote several different drafts. Eventually I settled on “recording your culinary history.” I was inspired by a blog post written by Pat Tanumihardja for The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook a few months ago.

A few days after I filed the post, I learned about the unexpected death of one of my Hakka contacts in Toronto. That reminded me of another contributor, a young chef from Beijing who had also passed away a few years ago. Life passes quickly. I’m so glad I was able to record part of their history while they were still here.

If you always wanted to know how your grandmother, father, or great-aunt cooks their special dish, ask them now. With Chinese New Years coming up soon, it’s the perfect opportunity to capture some of those special dishes. Spend some time with them. Watch them cook, take notes, shoot photos or a video, and taste their food. Record their stories and history. They will be flattered and you will be able to pass on their culinary legacy. Pretty soon, you will be writing your own family cookbook.


Recent kudos for The Hakka Cookbook

large version of cover of The Hakka CookbookThe Hakka Cookbook is one month old.  Since the book has been released, several reviews have appeared in the past month. Here’s a brief summary. For the whole line-up of press coverage, check the media page.

Caitlin Donohue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian interviews me for their food and wine issue Feast  (10/23/12), then follows up with Hakka at Home (10/25/12).  “I’ve read few cookbooks as interesting as The Hakka Cookbook…”

In Zester Daily, an online newsletter on the culture of food and drink, Carolyn Phillips wrote a thoughtful review on The Hakka Cookbook on October18.  Phillips, a master of Chinese cooking herself,  learned many Hakka dishes from her Hakka father-in-law while living in Taiwan. Phillips writes,  “All of the Hakka classics are here for the first time in an English cookbook, as well as local specialties from the diaspora that flung Hakka descendants to the far corners of the world. It’s a rich tapestry of stories, savory flavors and rich broths.”

The Hakka Cookbook made  Sunday’s food section (10/14/12) in the San Francisco Chronicle. On page G2 under “What’s New”, Amanda Gold describes the book. She summarizes “What emerges is a comprehensive, yet accessible, look at a rarely explored group and the food that defines them.”  If you missed it, check out this online version.

On October 4, my friend Carolyn Jung, creator of Food Gal, a delicious online food blog wrote a lovely review of my book. “For Chinese-Americans like myself, we’re all the better for its publication, too, because it includes so many recipes for dishes that we grew up with and still crave to this day.”