By Misa Acox
As the month of May ended, I felt remiss in not mentioning that May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. There are many ways to celebrate the month and one of the ways my family celebrates is through our love of recipes handed down in our family.
Although my parents passed away a few years ago, my young adult kids and I still enjoy making family recipes for nearly every special occasion – birthdays, graduations, new jobs, and especially holidays. Getting together to eat a festive meal is a great way to embrace Asian heritage and traditions as well as to create new traditions.
New Year’s Day was always a special day in my youth. In Japan it is seen as a holiday to remember the past and to create good intentions for the future. My late mother, who hailed from Tokyo, came from a large family and New Year’s Day was always a day of enjoying each other’s company and eating wonderful food, after a morning visit to the local Shinto shrines.
One of my earliest memories as a toddler was sitting up on the kitchen counter watching my mother prepare and cook food. She made the most delicious “gyoza” – a Japanese dumpling shaped like a fan – and would spend an hour preparing and filling the gyoza wrappers. She prepared them exactly as her father did in Japan: lightly sauteing them and then adding a little bit of water to steam them in the end. They were slightly crunchy on the outside and perfectly seasoned on the inside. I still prepare them the same way years later.
My mother made it a point to share her recipe for teriyaki marinade and once told me that every family will have their own recipe. Some like to add more ginger or garlic, others will add honey or sesame seeds. It is like a well-worn and comfortable family quilt – you will have your family recipe and it will always remind you of home.
Nowadays when my kids are home for a special occasion, we eat different kinds of Asian food. We are not picky! We will make a celebratory meal of gyoza and serve it with Chinese egg rolls (which I also make from scratch), California sushi rolls, and chicken teriyaki. Sometimes we eat Thai or Indian food.
As in most cultures, people come together in celebration for many reasons and food provides a way of sharing your unique heritage and family recipes. Food is love. Sharing food with others is a wonderful way to share that love.
Misa Acox, Marketing and Publications Manager, loves to cook with her daughter when she is home from college. We hope to write a family cookbook in the future.