Tag Archives: Chinese


My condo in Charlottesville was on first floor. Directly below me lived Mia. Her parents had shifted from Malaysia. Mia had married a white American, and had two adorable twin boys, who were two years old. I could see the two boys racing their cars on the sidewalk from my sitting area. They would be watched either by their father, or mother.

Mia’s mother still dressed in a Malaysian dress when she would come to call. She would be talking loudly in her native tongue. In those days I wasn’t friends with Mia, so I was quite confused as to whether the people down below could speak English. That cleared up when I met Mia in the local mosque. Her husband had converted to Islam from Christianity. Mia came regularly to the mosque, and when I would climb the stairs to my condo, I could hear the Quranic verses being played in her home.

During the Ramadan period I had there, she sent me a couple of times a Malay dish for Iftari. The filling was mouth watering. It was chicken, and vegetables. I loved it, and wanted to know the recipe. There never came a time when I could learn it from her. When Son came for me after his divorce, and asked me to shift back to Houston to live with him, I said good bye to my neighborhood.

Yesterday it was quite by chance, I came upon the recipe, and learnt the name (I didn’t even know the name) of the dish I liked. It’s Chinese by origin. The different countries around China have adapted it to their own liking. My Afghan neighbors next door in home country had their own version which was uncooked. I never liked it, but never had the gumption to admit. It would have been terribly rude, and I can never be a rude person. Every time they sent me, I was forced to sing platitudes.

Insha’Allah I will be trying my new found recipe after a day, or two. Let’s see how my version comes out.

Unsung Friend

Unsung Heroes
by Ben Huberman
We all have our semi-secret, less-known personal favorites — a great B-side, an early work by an artist that later became famous, an obscure (but delicious) family recipe. Share one of your unsung heroes with us — how did you discover it? Why has it stayed off everyone’s radar?

My neighbor Mrs. N lived on the right side of our home. We were new in the neighborhood. The first time we met was, when she decided to cross a gap in the hedge between her home, and mine. She rang our bell, and introduced herself. She told me (very self righteously) that she had waited for enough period for me to visit her.

She was a lovely lady with a peach, and cream complexion, and green eyes. An inch, or two taller than me she took me to task for not wearing heels. Soon I was tottering behind her in four inches heels to our Ladies Club, to trips to tailors, and markets.

She was the one to teach me Chinese dishes. You must have noticed, that Chinese dishes vary from country to country. Here in the US, it’s an Americanized versions of the originals.

Another thing I have noticed is, that every cook does the cooking in a different way. If you don’t believe me, ask your friends to make the same dish (don’t tell them). Every dish will have a different flavor.

Leaving aside Chinese dishes, Mrs. N taught me how to tenderize Chickpeas. My Chana Chaat was a mess. The Chickpeas would be hard as rocks. Every time I attempted to make Chana Chaat, it was a disaster.

She taught me what others never revealed. Many people never really gave away their recipes. They only gave a general idea.

The first time I managed to make mouth watering Chana Chaat, it seemed I conquered Mt. Everest. It was one of my (late) husband’s favorite dish. Please bear in mind there weren’t recipes to google at the click of a button, and no tinned Chickpeas readily available.

I was fortunate to have Mrs. N as a neighbor, and her memory will stay ever bright in my heart.