Lotus root soup with pork ribs
The lotus root soup with pork ribs is a classic Chinese dish that can be consumed for medicinal purposes, but because of its rich, comforting flavor, many eat it as a full meal. The lotus root is not a vegetable commonly found in American supermarkets, according to Liu, but is available at Asian grocery stores such as 99 Ranch Market. Liu, who grew up in the city of Wuhan in Meilin, China, describes the feeling that she gets when she thinks of the dish.
“The picture of that soup is more family related, it’s like mom [is] making the soup for the children, especially in the winter,” Liu said. “In the winter it feels good to drink that warm soup where you get the lotus root, which tastes kind of like yam and potato, which tastes kind of starchy and sweet and since it’s been in the soup for a while, it’s soft. And then you get the spare rib which is a combination of both, it’s really good.”
One of the dishes with significant cultural value that Lee learned about in Chinese class is Zongzi, sticky rice and pork dumpling wrapped in banana leaf. She recalls a story associated with the dish that she was taught:
“[Zongzi is] important in Chinese culture because of [the] Dragon Boat Festival,” Lee said. “Basically, what happens is that there’s this man named Quyuan, and he loved his country, but the Emperor didn’t listen to his advice, so that led to the fall of their nation, and he committed suicide. And due to him committing suicide, a lot of the Chinese people wanted to find his dead body before the fish ate it, so then they would throw this dish into the sea, wishing that the fish would eat this instead of the body, before [the fish] find the body.”
The shape of the dish and the filling used with the rice varies in each region you go to in China, and there are diversifications of the dish in different countries in Asia. Although cooking the dish can take almost 90 minutes, it is commonly prepared and holds great significance in Chinese culture.
steamed whole fish with ginger, scallions and soy
Zhu’s mother is from Guang Zhou, China, and Zhu has noticed a difference in the flavor of Chinese food in America versus over there.
“There’s like a specialty of Guang Zhou food. It’s more light in flavor,” Zhu said. “One dish I feel is super unrepresented in America’s representation of Chinese food is a basic steamed fish. It has to be a fresh fish, and you just steam it, and after it’s done steaming, you pour some soy sauce, ginger, and some scallions on there. By steaming a fresh fish, you preserve the natural flavor of [it]. Some American Chinese restaurants serve deep-fried fish in sweet and sour sauce, and I think it really just covers up the natural sea flavor. I feel like a lot of Americanized Chinese food stresses really heavy flavors, but I think a lot of Chinese food also finds its specialty in the lighter flavors.”