My mom doesn’t cook as much as she used to. She used to cook everything — mostly Japanese food of course. She even used to make her own tofu. After my dad passed away in the early ’90s she cooked for herself for years, making large portions of dishes to freeze and re-heat as meals for days. But lately she finds cooking “mendokusai,” which translates to “bothersome but I like “pain in the butt.”
She was always a great cook and of the three boys in the family, I was the one who absorbed a lot of her cooking by watching and noticing how everything tasted. I miss a lot of the dishes she used to make when I was a kid — many of them, like steamed egg custard (Chawan Mushi), which is a rarity even in many Japanese restaurants. So Erin and I have been concerned since she stopped cooking a lot of her signature dishes, and figured we better get some lessons now while we can.
Food is the one immutable bridge back to root cultures for any descendants of immigrants in this country — which means most of us. And even though it might be easier to go to a Japanese restaurant to chow down on traditional foods, I’m glad we’re holding onto our culinary heritage by learning to cook Japanese dishes too.
The two dishes we wanted to cook with my mom last week were Okara and Tempura, done the way she’s always made them.