A dish gets per­sonal

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - FOOD - By Louisa Chu lchu@chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @louisachu

Some­times I think that the way I learned how to cook toma­toes and eggs was the worst. So it’s prob­a­bly good if you al­ready have your own recipe for this com­mon, Chi­nese stir-fried dish — if we can even call them recipes, with so few in­gre­di­ents and such sim­ple tech­nique.

Plus, the dish is purely per­sonal. My mom’s ver­sion doesn’t wa­ver, al­ways soft spoon­fuls where crim­son and golden ten­drils be­come one. My grand­mother’s was firmer, red sliv­ers nes­tled among yel­low curds, sur­pris­ing un­til I re­mem­ber her gen­tle na­ture be­lied strong be­liefs.

I must have drawn on this ma­tri­ar­chal lin­eage when I learned how to make this dish my own, not at home with their guid­ing hands, but on the fiery wok line at my aunt and un­cle’s now-closed restau­rant. I’m sure it was hot, but the deaf­en­ing ex­haust fan over­head also al­ways made it feel like cook­ing in the eye of a trop­i­cal storm. The in­gre­di­ents, while care­fully prepped into bite-size pieces by a great-aunt who worked in back, were far from farm-to-ta­ble.

The way they came to­gether, with scorch­ing speed and just the way I wanted, changed all the time.

Right now, in the har­vest sea­son, it’s all about the toma­toes, the wildest heir­loom col­ors, and if they’re lit­er­ally burst­ing with ripeness, all the bet­ter. If you’re lucky enough to grow your own, you know they’re the best. I and my two black thumbs will go to the farm­ers mar­kets to res­cue the unlovely ones to reach their full po­ten­tial.


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