…because some thoughts are worth remembering
My mother is a magician. In her small kitchen, she rules over each of her ingredients and it seems like you just looked away for a few moments and WHOMP, dinner would be ready. While delicious, I didn’t grow up knowing the names of the dishes she made. I just remember the flavors and key ingredients. It’s only recently that I started matching the names and the flavors, and then the recipes, which you could only get through ethnographic means. For whatever reason, she had the recipe for Chinjao Rosu (青椒牛), a pepper steak, written down. It’s not a “steak au poivre”: this recipe’s pepper is not cracked black pepper corns, but green or other sweet peppers cut in thin sticks then stir fried with pork (though beef is more popular in the US and Japan) with oyster sauce and ginger. When I made it according to the recipe, it didn’t taste the same. Obviously some magic incantation is required. Until I know the abracadabra equivalent for it, I have tweaked the recipe to approximate the taste I remember from childhood. I’ve tried different variations and measurements of ingredients. They all worked out well, just not quite what I remembered. It is a forgiving recipe (like my mother?). Perhaps these flavors in memory live in a different dimension beyond the sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Mom’s Chinjao Rosu Recipe (with the magic)
Photo: My brother and I on a family trip. I’m clutching a small box of “snack kelp”.