With COVID-19 slowly becoming a haunting memory thanks to the rapid distribution of vaccines, the return of communal dining is on the horizon with the promise of shared summer memories over a meal. After a cold and isolating year alone, connecting over food will be even more important than it was in years past, being especially true if these reunions occur with family—biological or chosen. There is an inherent bonding experience over sharing a meal, and dinners over FaceTime tried to replicate something that is a uniquely in-person experience. As someone who lost their grandmother right before COVID hit, I know this to be especially true.
My Japanese grandmother had a wealth of recipes she pulled from when it was time to prepare a meal. Despite immigrating to the United States when she was already in her 20s, she could make quintessential American classics, like fried chicken with mashed potatoes, better than anyone I knew. She could even make her version of an Egg McMuffin that put the fast food variety to shame—with chopsticks, no less. The next minute, she would be fluffing rice in her Zojirushi rice maker and roasting seaweed for sushi rolls. To top it off, she was the best baker I knew, making the absolute best chocolate cake known to man.
Unfortunately, most of these recipes were lost with her. She cooked and baked intuitively, telling me that a cake batter would “feel a certain way” when it was properly mixed, or that I needed to just look at whatever was in the pot to see that it was done. She also memorized a majority of the recipes, never thinking she needed to write them down. The ones she did write down were a mix of Japanese and English.
A majority of my happy memories from childhood involve me sitting at the coffee table next to her while she produced hot meal after hot meal for me. If she wasn’t giving me food, I was watching her work, trying to absorb all kinds of information I could from her years of being in the kitchen. Memories like this have been on hold for a year thanks to the pandemic. With these 10 family-style recipes from all over Asia, you’ll be set for a summer of creating new memories around a delicious meal.
- Sukiyaki (すき焼き)
- A traditional Japanese shared meal, sukiyaki is a hot pot-style dish made with beef in a soy sauce-flavored broth. This is easy to make in large quantities in one big pot for a family-style get together, or in smaller individual sizes.
- Hot Pot
- The epitome of sharing food with friends and family is hot pot. Usually consisting of thinly sliced meat and a variety of vegetables in a water-based soup, hot pot can be easily customized for every diet—the options are endless! This is another dish that can be made as one large meal or smaller individual pots.
- Caramelized and Braised Pork Belly with Eggs (Thit Kho Tau)
- Thit Kho Tau is a staple dish in Vietnamese cooking, and making a big pot of it for everyone to share is perfect for a weeknight dinner. Made with large chunks of pork belly, eggs, and coconut juice, this meal is perfect when served over rice.
- Beef Salpicao
- A delicious dish of stir-fried beef with Worcestershire sauce, butter, garlic, and red chili flakes, beef salpicao is perfect as a main dish or shareable appetizer at any Filipino household. It’s simple enough for family, but fancy enough for company—the best of both worlds!
- Bulgogi Taco Bar (불고기 타코 바)
- A perfect East meets West hybrid, this Korean bulgogi taco bar is perfect for a summer get together of any size. The taco sauce is a mix of gochujang and soy sauce to perfectly accompany the rich and sweet beef flavor in the bulgogi.
- Paneer Butter Masala
- Masala is a staple in any Indian kitchen, so why not try your hand at making this vegetarian version? The curry is lightly spiced for all palates, making it the perfect meal for a weeknight get together.
- Ghar ki Daal Mash (Maash ki Daal)
- Ghar ki Daal Mash is a Pakistani meal that changes with every generation. Families have their own recipes that they adapt with every cooking. The simple ingredients of daal, vegetables and spices create a hearty dish that is easy to share with friends and family.
- Gaeng Ho (แกงโฮะ)
- Gaeng ho literally translates to “a mix of curry stuff,” meaning a dish made of leftovers. This classic Thai recipe makes everything fresh instead of using leftovers, using plenty of vegetables and glass noodles for a perfect family meal. Feel free to experiment to find your perfect blend of ingredients.
- Hong Kong Style French Toast (法蘭西多士)
- Brunch is best eaten surrounded by friends, so for your next at-home brunch, impress everyone with this Hong Kong style french toast. Deep fried and stuffed with peanut butter, this is sure to quickly become a brunch staple after you make it. Drizzle some condensed milk over it for an extra kick of sweetness, and your sweet tooth will thank you later (or it may just cost you a trip to the dentist).
- Bonus: Dessert and drink
- We couldn’t forget dessert! Anmitsu is a sweet treat, popular in Japan during those scorching hot summer months. A mix of Kanten jelly topped with fruits, dango, azuki bean paste, ice cream, and syrup, this refreshing dessert will be sure to hit the spot during those sunny days!
- Watermelon Punch, known as Subak Hwachae
- If you’re looking for an easy and refreshing drink to serve a crowd, subak hwachae is the perfect fix. A traditional watermelon punch made with ginger ale, subak hwachae can easily be customized with other fruits and flavors.
After a year of social distancing and lost time spent with loved ones, it’s important to create new memories with family. 2020 and 2021 have been watershed years not just because of COVID, but also with the reckoning of the AAPI community. Bonding over a shared love of traditional Asian cuisine is a perfect way to honor tradition and connect with our roots. Share these little moments of joy with family over a meal, and maybe even establish a new tradition in the process.
Cover photo credit: Chopstick Chronicles
This article is part of the Summer 2021 issue. The Summer 2021 issue centered on the theme of Family, scratching the surface of what it means to be an Asian American family, whether that’s from queer families growing to the ways our AAPI community comes together. Check it out here!