24 February 2012

Fan Chao In The Gumbo Kitchen

Thursday, February 23rd, 9:03 PM.  Spring-like winter night, windows open. It is good.

Fan chao, in so far as I can trust a free translation application, is the phonetic English for the Chinese phrase for 'stir fry'.  I sought this out because I wanted to know what it was in Chinese. Alas, I cannot read Chinese script (not yet, anyway), so phonetic will have to suffice. It pains me slightly that I do not know the dialect, so I will take it on faith that it is correct to say 'fan chow'.

I like how it sounds. Especially with emphasis. Fan chao!  It's like shouting "Rock on!" in English.

Not that I was shouting tonight.  No need or desire.  What I wanted, went looking for, was a little peace of mind.  Lately, there has been a lot of stormy weather on the ocean in my head.  Too many thoughts, too many perturbations and stresses.  I sought that peace in the solace of cooking, as I often do.

The exception to that has been recent history.  I haven't cooked as often as I used to, nor have I cooked truly good meals on a regular basis.  A lot of grab-and-go type behavior, and tonight I made myself stop. I stopped, took a deep breath of the cool air lazily coming in my windows, and decided that tonight I would stir fry something.

That I don't possess a wok, or even a basic range of typical Chinese pantry items beyond the ubiquitous bottle of soy sauce I keep in the fridge, was of little consequence.  Fan chao had seized my wearied imagination, ergo fan chao it must be.

I was in luck, to some extent.  I had a chicken breast, a bunch of celery, three green Hungarian wax peppers, an onion and some fresh garlic.  Along with some aleppo pepper and soy sauce, they would constitute the feast.  I retrieved my trusty cast iron Dutch oven from the cabinet, and set to.

The chicken was sliced thin and marinated in soy sauce and rice vinegar with a touch of garlic and cornstarch.  The vegetables sliced thin, celery on the bias, and garlic chopped fine with aleppo. Small amount of oil in the pot, heated to shimmering.

Slice. Chop. Heat. Scatter. Stir. Fill the kitchen air with fragrance, as the mind drains of tension.  The moment of truth, as the chicken and vegetables tilt into the bowl, on their way to the waiting mouth. It is good.

Sit. Breathe. Eat. Sip tea. For the space of an hour, that is all I was or needed to be: a hungry human, eating. That was peace.


  1. There's goodness in simplicity. :-)


  2. This made me very hungry.

    I do my "real" cooking in Sundays. I love the relaxing preparations, the scents of something cooking all day, filling the house with contentment, and the anticipation of a great meal.


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