My Chinese Grandma, Frying Up Rice Noodles — And Lots of Love

11776026213_2e785c1720_nThe other day, John’s grandma invited the two us over all of a sudden for dinner at her house. When I say “all of a sudden”, I mean that she interrupted us in the midst of preparing handmade dumplings and told John and me we were dining on fried rice noodles instead.

As much as I love fried rice noodles, her invitation arrived on an evening when I had been craving the very handmade dumplings we were preparing with John’s father. But what could we do? Here was grandma, who had been hospitalized for two months in fall of 2013, standing at the door and asking us to dine on the noodles she had already finished preparing. It was the kind of situation with “just go with it” written all over it. Besides, my mother-in-law said we only had to eat a little, just to be polite. So I hid my dumpling disappointment behind a smile, hooked my arm in grandma’s arm, and strolled out the door with John beside us.

Once at grandma’s home, she immediately plunked heaping bowls of rice noodles in front of us — each bowl easily three times larger than her own. When she said dinner, boy did she mean it.

“Aiya, too much!” John said in protest, which I repeated in turn. What happened to just eat a “little bit”, like my mother-in-law said?

“Not too much!” Grandma said in a gruff voice, followed by nagging us to “Eat, eat!” as if we had to finish our bowls of rice…or else.

So we tucked into the rice noodles with our chopsticks and discovered that, if this was indeed a “responsibility”, it was the most delicious kind. I couldn’t help savoring the baby bok choy perfectly seasoned with garlic and dark aged soy sauce. It wasn’t too salty or overdone, and arguably it was the finest rice noodles she had ever fried up for us. So as I cleared the last of the noodles in my bowl, I couldn’t help but tell her, “So delicious!”

For grandma, that wasn’t praise but rather a cue to provide seconds. Before we could utter “bu yao!” grandma was on her feet, trying to shovel more rice noodles into our bowls. We each shielded the bowls with our hands, pleading to her not to add more. And when that failed, we simply rose from our stools and headed for the door itself.

Grandma chased after us with mandarin oranges, trying to press the fruits into our hands with far more strength than you might expect from a recently hospitalized woman over 80. But we pushed them back into her hands and then trotted outside, saying “Save them for next visit!”

Grandma, interrupting our “regularly scheduled” dumplings for a spot of fried rice noodles at her place.

“You know, she shouldn’t have made us those rice noodles,” I said to John on the way back home, shaking my head. “She’s still recovering from her heart condition.”

John shrugged and smiled. “That’s how she shows her love for us.” His words echoed what my mother-in-law would say after we returned home: “She shouldn’t do it, but she wants to do it because she likes you.” You could say the same about the black striped polyester pants I never asked her to buy for me (and which I could barely squeeze into) or the hulking bag of puffed rice sweets she delivered to us one afternoon.

Grandma has never hugged or kissed me, nor told me she loves me. But these days — and especially after this impromptu dinner — I’ve never felt closer to her.

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13 thoughts on “My Chinese Grandma, Frying Up Rice Noodles — And Lots of Love

  • January 6, 2014 at 8:24 am

    That was cute of your grandma! Obviously she loves you a lot! I think she wanted to hug you, too, but probably didn’t know how to start! That’s the traditional Chinese way of saying that “I care for and love you!”, without saying it!

  • January 6, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Now, not to be too demanding, but if you could just zoom in on your photos of the noodles….they look delicious!!!

  • January 6, 2014 at 10:43 am

    How lovely your grandma is! She reminds me of my grandma who is good at cooking.

  • January 7, 2014 at 5:10 am

    Aww. LOVE this story! Your Chinese grandma is so cute! And you did the right thing — showing her love by eating her food! Chinese love is so yummy!

  • January 7, 2014 at 7:19 am

    Laughed and cried all at the same time for an hour after reading this.

  • January 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    She’s a good looking lady. I’m glad she’s a good cook. That makes responding to her loving gesture enjoyable in more ways than one. As a grandmother myself, I’m happy when my sons-in-law and grandchildren like what I cooked. But what can I do? Some of them are picky eaters.

  • January 9, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    So nice 🙂 My boyfriend’s grandma can hardly speak any putonghua, she just speaks Suzhouhua, but she is lovely! Sometimes I have thought what would happen if I tried to hug or kiss her, haha. Probably she would be scared, but I’d love to do it.

    Take good care of your Chinese grandma!

    • January 10, 2014 at 12:20 am

      Marta, you should try hugging her! And Jocelyn too! Maybe, in time, your Chinese grandmas may get used to it and look forward to your hugs.

  • October 26, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Well, my mother-in-law always prepares full table of my favourite dishes. And recently she learned to hug me! 🙂 So there is hope for everyone to learn it 😉

  • Pingback:From the Archives: Thinking of My Grandma Here in China | Speaking of China

  • October 28, 2015 at 12:01 am

    I loved my grandparents’ homemade noodles the most, and I would love to eat them again. So you do as long as you can. 🙂
    There’s nothing better than a granny who wants to fatten you.


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