Read of the Week

Just Add Rice

Ming-Cheau Lin


Review: Summer Jacobs

The further one reads into Just Add Rice the more one’s own ignorance is revealed on the subject of east asian cuisine and even more so on Taiwanese cooking.

How many South Africans, save for those who have Chinese or Taiwanese friends or family, really know about Asian cooking…Asian cooking that extends beyond sushi, spring rolls and sweet and sour pork?

If you are looking to expand your knowledge on Taiwanese cuisine, who better to teach you than a Taiwanese South African who speaks Afrikaans?

Ming-Cheau Lin has managed to hold on to the traditions of her own culture while simultaneously embracing South African culture.

The colourful cookbook has over 60 easy to follow recipes that include soups, mains, desserts and more.

But Ms Lin does not take credit for the user-friendly instructions. “Taiwanese home-cooking tends to be humble and thrifty, almost rural,” she explains in Just Add Rice.

She writes about how food is perceived and what it stands for in Taiwanese culture. She says, for example, that the common greeting for “how are you” in Taiwan is “have you eaten yet”.

“That, for me, encapsulates the heart and soul of our culinary tradition. It hints at the communal sharing of food.”

The book also reveals the prejudice and ignorance the author suffered growing up in a marginalised culture. She shares a painful memory that surfaces every time she makes kimbap – a kind of deconstructed sushi. She recalls opening her lunch box at break time and having to endure rude comments and bullying from children who said the dish “smelled gross”. Painful as the memory is, it has not deterred her from making it and she counters this memory with another of her mother preparing kimbap and her as a young girl eagerly awaiting for the “ugly edges” to be trimmed off and disposed of “immediately into her mouth”. Another of her favourites is Three Cup Chicken: a classic Chinese dish which derives its name from the three most dominant flavourings. The soy and rice wine allow the chicken and sauce to develop a beautiful colour and taste, she explains.

Ming-Cheau Lin also goes one step further in helping you prepare the perfect dish by listing supermarkets for East and Southeast Asian ingredients in South Africa. The areas listed include Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Durban.