Ask the Yangxifu: Carolyn J. Phillips On Charming A Chinese Family Through Food | Speaking of China

26 Responses

  1. Brittany
    Brittany January 13, 2012 at 2:23 am | | Reply

    Wow, great post Jocelyn, so yummy. Even though I don’t have a Chinese boyfriend/husband, I am nonetheless a major fan of Chinese food and always looking for good English-language resources (at least till my Chinese gets much, much better).
    Thanks to Carolyn for the recipes. I look forward to trying some of them out! Best to you both.

  2. Charlotte
    Charlotte January 13, 2012 at 5:07 am | | Reply

    What a timely article…my husband has been ill for two days and I’ve made porridge for him three times in these two days. Well tonight he realized that I used the wrong kind of rice for it and it’s making him feel worse. He picked at the fried cabbage while our son and I ate the jia chang dou fu and then he left to go find a bowl of noodles at a nearby shop. Major failure tonight! Although I was happy our three year old really liked the tofu, so maybe not a complete failure 🙂 Can’t wait to check out more of Carolyn’s work.

  3. Eileen
    Eileen January 13, 2012 at 7:40 am | | Reply

    I am totally nodding in agreement with a lot of what she said. 😀

    I will check out her blog. 🙂

  4. ordinary malaysian
    ordinary malaysian January 13, 2012 at 8:52 am | | Reply

    Wow, what a mouth-watering interview! Just looking at the pictures of the food makes your mouth water! Carolyn is so right. Food is such an integral part of the Chinese culture that it won’t be wrong to say that they are inseparable. We Chinese will always find an excuse to go “makan-makan” which is Malay and literally means “eat-eat”. And may I add there are so many varieties of Chinese food out there and many types of cooking other than just the stir-fry as mentioned by Carolyn. We even have many varieties of soup from the clear type to the herbal. Talking about herbal soups, I just simply love them, esp bak kut teh! The Malay cake mentioned looks to me like a Chinese cake that we Malaysian Chinese are familiar with. We sometimes have it for breakfast, though the cake here is less sweet. Will check out Carolyn’s blog. Thanks Carolyn and Jocelyn!

  5. SJ Cheng
    SJ Cheng January 13, 2012 at 10:49 am | | Reply

    Thank you for the wonderful interview, ideas, and resources. I have great enthusiasm for cooking Chinese food but alas–little skill. Luckily, I married a man from Shanghai who loves cooking and is very good at it. When my in-laws visit, my father-in-law (also a great cook) takes over in the kitchen. I totally agree that food is a good (and tasty) way to learn about China, and now that my kids are old enough, I encourage them to hang out in the kitchen while Yeye is cooking. They’re learning how to roll chuanjuan and happily get to taste test the finished products!

  6. Susan Blumberg-Kason
    Susan Blumberg-Kason January 13, 2012 at 11:54 am | | Reply

    What a beautiful love story! I really enjoyed reading about her early days in Taiwan and how most of the great chefs went to Taiwan after 1949. It makes sense. People always talk about Taiwan for its food (Hong Kong and Singapore, too). I have friends in Chicago who drive 45 minutes for a Taiwanese breakfast. Fortunately these restaurants (a food court, really) are two minutes from me. Now I’m hungry!

  7. Fred
    Fred January 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm | | Reply

    Great post.

  8. Sveta
    Sveta January 13, 2012 at 7:57 pm | | Reply

    The food looks great I admit. Hopefully in the future I can learn some recipes and try to cook them 🙂

  9. Carolyn J. Phillips
    Carolyn J. Phillips January 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm | | Reply

    Thanks all for the very kind words, and thank you Jocelyn for this great opportunity to speak to the wonderful people who read this site.

    Chinese cuisine really is the perfect way to get to know the culture, and it certainly is what changed my life in Taiwan. Up until that instant when “food = culture” suddenly clicked in my brain, I had been very frustrated at my inability to make any headway with not only the language, but more importantly with the people. The only ones had who wanted to talk to me up to that point tended to be kids practicing their English!

    By feeding my face I ended up feeding my soul, and soon I was tearing through China’s cuisines while making lifelong friends. Part of this had to be because I was a whole lot happier and a whole lot more tuned into the world around me.

    Besides that, food is always a good topic of conversation, and knowing something about Chinese cuisine and culture shows that you are truly interested in China. The Chinese are, by and large, passionate about their food and traditions, and if you share their passion, this will help to thaw much of that famous Chinese reserve and open the way to possible friendships.

    I can’t recommend highly enough this secret path (well, at least up until now!) to understanding China. And if you have Chinese in-laws but don’t speak much Chinese, learning to cook their food is a great way to show that you are willing to be a part of the family. Besides, this is cuisine that you just can’t get anywhere outside of China, so learning to cook it yourself gives you and yours the chance to dine well!

  10. Taiwanxifu
    Taiwanxifu January 14, 2012 at 7:46 am | | Reply

    Dear Carolyn,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. As a Taiwanxifu I know what it is like to cook something but have your husband give you an expression that conveys, hmmm almost there but not quite right. Now thankfully his reaction mostly signals acceptance although unfortunately I don’t get in the kitchen as much as I would like at the moment.

    I find that there is no longer the sheer diversity of food of regional Chinese food in Taiwan that there must have been in the 1970s. Some mainland chefs have passed on their legacy to their children, or apprentices, but many restaurants have not contained and/or recipes have been ‘adjusted’ for local tastes. Still, influences live on such as in the popularity of Taipei Beef Noodle Soup and Shanghai style food (especially xiaolongbao). Also, I find the fusion of Japanese influences on Taiwanese foodfascinating.

    I do get some cooking tips from my mother-in-law, although it often comes laden with judgements and copious amounts of MSG! I do find it interesting that most Taiwanese home cooks can happily do without a wok but not without a Da-tung electric steamer.

    Thank you so much for sharing your family and culintary experiences. I will look forward to reading — and using — your cookbooks.

  11. Henry Yeh
    Henry Yeh January 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm | | Reply

    Sigh… 巧婦難為無米炊
    Here in Mexico, we can’t even find a simple piece of tofu. International foods have never had a big following here.

  12. cvaguy
    cvaguy January 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm | | Reply

    Could you let us know when the the books are available ? I want to have them. I followed the Carolyn’s blog, it is really good. I’d like to catch up with my cooking skills with the books…

  13. jackie
    jackie January 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm | | Reply

    Really wanted to see those recipe links, but I am inside China so all the Western blog sites are blocked, and unfortunately I don’t have a VPN…:-(

  14. Cooking Chinese | 万水千山 January 16, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  15. Carolyn J. Phillips
    Carolyn J. Phillips January 27, 2012 at 12:13 am | | Reply

    Thanks all for the kind mentions and interest in my upcoming books (I’m speaking to you, cvaguy). If any of you have questions about Chinese cuisine or cooking, just drop me a line. There’s nothing I’d rather talk about than good Chinese food. Man yong! (Bon appetit!)

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