The Museum of Chinese in America

Founded in 1980, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States.

Comfort Foods

As we prepare to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends gathered around a meal, I got to thinking about comfort food. Growing up, my family lived across the country from our relatives, and our Thanksgiving stood out less as a time to follow traditions and more as a time to celebrate through cooking together. (In Oregon, with our youthful vegetarianism waxing and waning in popularity, I think there may have even been a few turkey-less years…) My job was always to make the biscuits, a  recipe from my mother’s New Basics Cookbook that I can just barely make from memory still. There are other food traditions we’ve kept going over the years. My mother makes a blue-ribbon-winning linzer torte, and Christmas Eve dinners are always dominated by a rich, creamy macaroni and cheese. One of the best gifts I’ve received was a collection of recipes from my friends and family, and I was thrilled to see my father’s brown bread and my husband’s grandmother’s apple cake included. For me, the comfort foods I treasure are the ones that remind me of being small and underfoot in the kitchen, reaching a hand up to steal a taste, impatiently awaiting a simmering sauce or baking bread. It made me wonder what comfort foods my colleagues craved, and so an email went out, asking for foods (and better yet, recipes.)

Samantha Chin-Wolner found it almost too easy to pick: “…my mom’s congee. I don’t actually have a recipe, but she’d cook the rice down overnight and throw in ginger and chicken. As a kid, I’d often destroy it with an obscene amount of soy sauce. BEYOND simple but so perfect, especially during the fall/winter.” (Serious Eats has a great article on cooking a proper bowl.)

For Sophia Ma, it’s all about the way grandma used to make: “It was a whole chicken, it would sit all day on the stove, and lots of herbs and roots…sometimes she would throw in a whole fish too. Fish, good for the eyes, and chicken, good for the body. And of course it’s also grandma making it too!” (Not Grandma’s soup, but a Momofuku recipe so I have a strong feeling it’s probably delicious: Chicken-Ginger Noodle Soup.)

Herb Tam keeps it simple (and isn’t the best comfort food the simplest?) with “Steamed egg with dried shrimp mixed in with my white rice.” (Looking to buy your own dried shrimp? Check out Chow for sources and tips.)

Marissa Chen comforts herself year-round with “Aji de Gallina!  I crave it every Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and Easter… basically all the time.” (She also included a recipe and a history lesson from La Vida Comida.)

In a nice twist, Ryan Wong remembers Dad’s best recipe (and Mom’s best takeout): “Fried rice the way my dad made it. Exactly five ingredients: eggs, frozen peas, onions, lap cheong (sausage) and rice. Also, mondoo (Korean dumplings) the way Koreatown Plaza in Los Angeles made it – my mom doesn’t cook. She took me and my brother for meals in Koreatown when my dad was on work trips.” (It may not be like how Mom used to buy, but New Yorkers have named Mandoo Bar in Murray Hill the best dumplings in the borough.)

So whether you celebrate with roasted turkey or ma po tofu, from our MOCA family to yours: Happy Thanksgiving.

Emily Chovanec Schappler
Visitor Services Manager

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