My family celebrates both American and Chinese holidays. The more, the merrier, I say. Best of all, it means we get to feast on my grandmother's home-cooked meals at least once a month. She's is amazing in the kitchen; in fact, she has been my source of inspiration for all things food-related. At 90 years old, she still grows all of her vegetables (even winter melon) and believes that eating organically is the way to go.
Just last week, we gathered for yet another meal, this time for to celebrate the Lantern Festival. I joined my grandmother in the kitchen for the pre-dinner preparations. As her sous chef, I got to observe a true food-connoisseur work her way through jars of odd spices and experiment with veggies I never knew existed. Of course, we always go back to the old favorites: steamed fish, cured meats, and my favorite, Ti Pong-pork shoulder braised in house-made sweet rice wine (Jiu Niang), soy sauce, and other spices. Being that she is of Szechuan descent she uses a generous amount of Szechuan peppercorns for a numbing, spicy kick.
I've had a lot of Ti Pong in my life, but she makes the best. Good Ti Pong is incredibly tender, with perfectly seasoned meat falling of the bone. Some add citrus peel, scallions, and even dried chili peppers. My grandmother's secret ingredient is the sweet rice wine which she makes by cooking glutinous rice and wine yeast, then allowing the mixture to ferment for a few weeks. This she makes in huge batches and uses in her steamed fish dishes as well.
Needless to say, I can't wait for the next big holiday.Diane Chang, editorial assistant
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