I’m unraveling a bit from all the traveling I have been doing. I forgot to attend an important event that I had committed to go to. I was one of the honorees and I didn’t show. That was a pretty serious offense. Peter would say I “pulled another Chen”— an unforgivably ditzy act as described by Angela.
Here are some of the “Chens” that I had pulled before. I once took Peter to an all women Holiday party. The hostess didn’t want to embarrass Peter by telling him, but he slowly realized it after an hour. There was also the time when I thought I was driving both my girls to the dentist until half way there I got a call from Audrey saying that she had triggered the alarm in the house and asking where I was. I had been running up and down the stairs looking for my keys and cell phone before rushing into my car and pulled out of the garage, completely oblivious that Audrey was not in the back seat.
The worst “Chen” I pulled was probably when I left my wallet in the hotel safe in Los Angeles. I just finished filming American Knees in LA and drove back to San Francisco with Angela who was only five years old at the time. Half way between LA and SF on Highway 5, I ran out of gas and pulled into a gas station. At the pump, I realized that I didn’t have my wallet. Peter didn’t answer any of my dozen calls because he was playing golf. The cashier at the gas station refused to be persuaded to take down a credit card number and let me fill my tank. I saw a couple of police cars and contemplated going to them, but I was driving without my license and I didn’t have any valid ID to prove to them who I was. I wracked my brain but there was nothing I could do. In the meantime, I was in the middle of nowhere with a young child and not a penny to my name. In the end, I had to resort to asking for money from strangers. I pretended to Angela that I did this as an educational experience for her in identifying who would be a good person to “ask help” from. When we finally reached home in SF after 12 hours of mad driving that day, I asked Angela what was the moral lesson of the day. Expecting “asking for help when in need” as I had repeatedly told her through out the ordeal, she simply said to remember to bring my wallet.
As Angela once stated in her subject line of an email she sent me, “I need to unf**k my life.” Amidst the mess of all the packing, unpacking and repacking, the only place where I could possibly unf**k my life was in my kitchen. It’s always been a sanctuary for me, the eye of the storm.
The simple dishes that calmed me down and centered me were bean sprout stir-fry and chicken curry.
Stir-fry is fast and simple. As I have written in I Like Chinese Food, the key to stir-fry is red hot wok and sizzling hot oil.
Bean Sprouts Stir-fry Ingredients:
1 bag of bean sprouts
1 bunch of scallion
1/2 red bell pepper
2 slices of ginger
1 tablespoon cooking oil (In Chinese restaurants, they would use at least 2 to 3 tablespoon, but I found 1 tablespoon to be fine.)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Heat up the wok with the oil on high. Stir frying the onion and ginger for 1 minute or so before putting in the scallion and bell pepper. Stir another minute and add in the bean sprouts. After stirring for another minute, add the salt, sugar, fish source and sesame oil. Give it a few quick stir before dishing out and serve.
I served the dish wrapped in spring roll skin with a little Sriracha Sauce to give it a kick. There was some left over Mongolian Beef from the other day, and I wrapped it with the bean sprouts for Peter. Leftovers are great for this type of spring rolls. For more spring roll ideas, check out Perfect Lunch with a Friend.
The curry was made from leftover roast chicken from Costco, which at $4.99 is the best deal in the entire Northern Hemisphere.
Curry Chicken Ingredients:
2 roast chicken breasts (cut or shredded to desired size and shape)
1/2 large onion
1/2 large potato
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1 stock lemongrass (sliced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 8oz. can coconut milk
2 teaspoon Mae Ploy Yellow Curry Paste
1 teaspoon sugar
Heat the wok or frying pan with coconut oil. Sauté onion, garlic and lemongrass until aromatic. Add bell pepper, potato, curry paste, sugar and coconut milk. Stew for 10 minutes before adding the chicken pieces. Cook for another 2 minutes before serving.