When I was in college, I would prepare a favorite childhood dish and it just never tasted the same as when my mom made it. Women deal constantly with partners saying the aggravating statement, "it's not like mom used to make it," and we secretly want to dump that pot pie or roasted chicken over their head-but instead smile sweetly and say, "I followed her recipe, honey!"
We connect food with memories, and while the dish's result is exactly the same as mom's its just missing the warm presence of "mom." It's her delicate smell, to her hard-working hands preparing that same meal or to the glare she bestows while poking your finger in the chocolate dessert.
While completely cliché but true, television commercials tend to feature family memories of mother and child by baking chocolate-chip cookies or some type of treat together.
Even if the cookies are burnt, the floor is littered with colored sprinkles and most of the dough was secretly consumed when mom wasn't looking-cooking creates a special connection.
I remember the first time my mom showed me how to make pancit, a Philippine noodle dish-she stood over me at the metal wok while I clumsily tried to stir fry. I completely overcooked the noodles and they were gummy. I recall my mother saying, "stop stirring the noodles too much!" We were having company over that night so she pointedly stated I "helped."
A perfectionist at heart, my mom taught me why cooking is so gratifying-it makes people happy.
A delightful juxtaposition, there's a busy peace in the kitchen that you can't find anywhere else at home. Whirring blenders, chopping knives, slamming cupboards: they are sounds of culinary creation and quality family time.
Far from utopia, it's people bumping hips, arguing over what toppings go on the salad and a little whining here and there from hungry children.
Beyond the chaos, it's always mom who keeps things flowing and makes dinner at home a family affair.
Now, when my mom and I cook together she sometimes doesn't mind if I'm the boss. However, one day I suggest she add chopped cilantro to her unique pancit dish, my mom gives me a very pointed look, turns around and continues stir frying.
And, guess what? The pancit tastes exactly like it should.
Mom's Pork Pancit
Serves 4 as a main entrée
1-1 ½ pound boneless pork sirloin chops or boneless country spareribs, thinly sliced
½ cup soy sauce
½ tbs. grated fresh Ginger
3 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
1 tsp. Honey
½ tsp. Fresh ground pepper
Pinch of chili flakes
1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced
2 large Carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced on the bias
4 Celery stalks, sliced on the bias
Large handful of Green Beans, trimmed and sliced
4 Green Onions, sliced
½ head of Cabbage, thinly sliced
2 tbs. flavorless oil (canola or vegetable)
2 tbs. butter
1-8 oz. package Pancit bijon noodles, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
½-¾ cup water or chicken broth
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Green onions, sliced for garnish
Combine sliced pork with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, honey, fresh ground pepper and chili flakes in a small bowl. Marinate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile slice vegetables, soak noodles and prepare garnish.
Heat a large wok on high heat until smoking, add in the oil and swirl to coat wok bottom. Add in the sliced pork, leaving any remaining marinade in bowl. Stir fry for one minute and then add in the onions, continue stir frying until pork is cooked through. Add in the carrots, celery and green beans and stir fry for 2 minutes or until vegetables are brightly colored. Add in the soaked noodles and stir fry until noodles begin to soften. Add in ? cup water or chicken broth, sliced cabbage and green onions. Stir fry until liquid is absorbed, add in another ? cup of liquid if necessary but don't over mix the noodles! Add in the butter and stir fry until melted. Taste and adjust seasonings with pepper or additional soy sauce.
Garnish with lemon wedges and green onions. Enjoy!
Note: The key to successful stir frying is heating the wok as hot as possible before adding in the meat, which lends a delicious caramelization to the pork versus "boiling" the meat at a lower temperature. Adding the oil in after heating the wok results in safe cooking and less grease splatters.