Wednesday, 27 November 2013

she, who cries.

Family is a strange thing.

Last time when my family came over to stay with me, we had our fair share of unforgettable moments. 
The excitement of much longed reunion, misunderstanding of the cultural differences, love and hate that only existed in our shared blood that couldn't be forgotten, laughter and sadness of family's misfortune; all spread out evenly to the giant piece of lost time blanket, every bite was a mouthful I struggle to swallow.

Although I was so very excited have them all; although I had all those plans of treating them with something special everyday; although I told myself several times that I would make sure they'd have a lovely time during their visit, when the day finally came to unfold its story, I found myself standing one step further away from the family I was born into and two steps closer to the family that I married into.
My family from home was a distant memories of the past that once existed. 
I've been living as they've been living theirs. We have been busy with the duties of living in two different cities over the decade, that the girl they remember wasn't a girl anymore, and the family wasn't the family anymore. My sister wasn't a little sister who once wrote me tearful poem about the butterflies in cocoon. My brother wasn't a sweet little boy that I used to cuddle. 
Everyone had all grown with the time. And with the time and the distance, we have all grown apart. Miles away. 
Perhaps it was my fault, that I let it happen that way.

It's been over four months since I spoke to any of my family.
And it has been about the same since I sent them a thank you card to say my thank you, and to say sorry if they ever felt I didn't look after them well enough.
But I still haven't heard, and I can't seem to be able to pick that phone up, even just to say 'hello'.

Strange thing is, it isn't as if something bad had happened. 
Okay. Yes, there was an argument or two like every other families do, but it wasn't anything serious that would have caused any upset to anyone.
Although it angered me that my mum cried her eyes out for an almost entire day, two days before my wedding party, screaming that her heart had been used by a boyfriend of hers, I knew she probably just wanted someone to comfort her. Although my dad's attempt to give me a pep talk and the lack of his appreciation of everything Toby and I had done really infuriated me, I knew he probably just wanted to be a dad.
But as the days went on, I felt myself looking into them from few steps away, outside the little circle. That transparent wall that I couldn't see was clearly there, and I was stood one step too far away. 
As we watched each other from the distanced circle through the transparent wall, I think, we've all realised that maybe, we couldn't break that wall. 
The invisible transparent wall was already cemented deep into the grounds of our lost time blanket, now was too late. 
Too late to compromise. Too late to demolish such a solidified differences. 
I was me and they were them.
It wasn't anyone's fault. Just one of those things.
Part of growing up; growing older.

Mixed Vegetable Rice (Bibimbap)
Serves 2

2 portions of steamed rice, kept warm.
2 fried eggs
1-2tbsp Gochujang (Korean fermented chilli paste)
little drizzle of sesame oil

for the mushrooms
4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2tbsp mirin
1tbsp soy sauce
1tsp sesame oil 
1/2 tsp runny honey
1/2 garlic clove, minced
pinch of white pepper
little oil for frying

for the spinach
200-300g spinach
1/2 tbsp spring onion, minced
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1/2tsp soy sauce
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
pinch of toasted sesame seed
pinch of white pepper
little drizzle of sesame oil

for the carrots
1 carrot, thinly sliced like matchsticks
pinch of salt
little oil for frying

For me, good vegetarian dishes should have solid back bone that gives you a satisfactory bite. There is no reason why you won't be satisfied if the vegetables are handled and cooked with this in mind.

I think well flavoured shiitake mushrooms in this dish does just that. It is meaty. 
Each individual vegetables cooked with care, and a good dollop of spicy fermented chilli paste as a binder, the whole thing comes together as one quite well.

Although I am only using few vegetables, you could easily use anything you have in your fridge to substitute what I used or add a few extra to make it even more exciting.
Traditional recipes call for well seasoned sauteed courgettes or bean sprouts and the garnish of sliced or minced beef. Some others opt for generous helping of wonderful shell fish to substitute the beef.
I kept mine very simple, but cooked the rice in traditional stone pot to give it ever so slightly crunch bottom, which is just a delight to eat.
With regards to the eggs, you can use poached if you prefer. And if you are like my dad, you might even decide to have the raw egg cracked into the warm finished dish to give it a extra silkiness. 

For the mushrooms.
Rehydrate the mushrooms with some hot water for 30mins or so. Squeeze the excess water out but keep the mushroom soaked water on a side for later. Slice the mushrooms thinly.
In a small mixing bowl, add the rest of the ingredients with the sliced mushrooms and marinade them for 10mins or so to allow the mushrooms to soak up the flavour.
If you are using fresh mushrooms, make sure to blanch them first to remove excess water. This process will help you to retain the good texture and intense flavour of the mushrooms.
When ready, saute gently with little oil over medium heat for few minutes. Add some mushroom soaked water to the pan, lower the heat and simmer for further 5mins or so.

For the spinach.
Blanch the spinach, squeeze the excess water and put aside.
Using pestle and mortar, roughly ground toasted sesame seed with pinch of salt.
In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients and bring it together. Mixing it with hands will allow you to evenly coat the spinach with the seasoning.
Season with little more salt if necessary.

For the carrots.
Gently fry the carrots in little oil until carrots are softened, and season with salt.

To put this dish together, divide warm cooked rice into two large-ish serving bowls and arrange the vegetables on top of the rice. Top with fried eggs, drizzle of sesame oil for extra nuttiness, and serve with generous helping of Gochujang.
The best way to eat this?
Mix them together with a good dollop of Gochujang, and dig in.
It is delicious goodness in a big bowl!

And maybe, that was why we cried when we hugged saying our goodbyes. 
Trying to capture the moment. 
Feeling every bit of our own flesh and blood with the bitter sweet love rushing through our bones and veins, maybe we hoped, the only moment that we breathed in the same warm air to linger on for a bit longer.


  1. I understand how you feel, being apart from my family for more than 6 years. It's not the distance that keeps us drifted, more on the day to day business and getting caught up in this fast paced life. I find it hard to relate to my own flesh and blood. How ironic.

  2. Hey Su,

    Came across your site for the first time. Your writing is BRILLIANT, staright from the heart and extremely honest. Wish you all the best with your little one (read your latest post).
    We cant much choose the family we are born into but we can almost choose the kind of family our children shall have. I am sure you will be wonderful.


    1. Hi Prachi,
      Thanks for your kind words and warm wish.I hope you enjoyed reading. I'm very much looking forward to resurfacing to this space. So hopefully, see you soon.

      S X