Food and Family Memories

Food creates memories, but food prepared and shared with love creates lasting memories. When my wife and I were dating, I spent a lot of time at her cousins’ home where she lived. In her culture, it is not considered appropriate for a female to spend time alone at the home of a man who is not her husband. Aside from going out on dinner or coffee dates, we mostly saw each other in the company of her family or mine. We ate a lot of meals together with her cousins and her cousins’ family.

Much of the food we ate was entirely new to me. It was a combination of Cambodian and Chinese food (not American-Chinese food). It was all homemade and eaten family-style. There were a few dishes that either my wife’s aunt or cousin would cook that were considered special, not only because of their flavor, but because of the effort they took to prepare and cook. One such food that was considered extra special was fu pei gyuen*.

Fu pei gyuen is a dish of Chinese origins, often found in dim sum restaurants. It is characteristically made of a paste of pork, shrimp, sometimes crab meat, and some variety of root vegetables for texture, all wrapped in bean curd skin and then either steamed or fried. Her family’s version is typically fried.

One of the things that makes this dish so special is that my wife’s cousin used to prepare it for everyone. He was a kind, generous man who loved to cook for and eat with his family. Sadly, he passed away several years ago after a long battle with liver cancer. His mother, my wife’s aunt, gave the recipe for this dish to my mother-in-law who prepared it for us this weekend. As we all share this food together, we are reminded of his warm, loving spirit and we know that he is with us in our memories and in our hearts.

 Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

*My wife’s family actually call this dish huy kung or hoi keung in Khmer.

Here are links to some recipes:

1. Huy Kung

2. Hoi Keung

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