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Monday, May 16, 2011

Voracious: The Best New Australian Food Writing

My name. On the front cover of a book! I'm so pleased I can finally reveal my work has been published in Voracious, a collection of newly commissioned essays that celebrates "The Best New Australian Food Writing"

It's one matter to have my words published in a book with my byline, but to be included with noted food writers like Gay Bilson, Jill Dupleix, Matthew Evans, Helen Greenwood, Alan Saunders, Joanna Savill and Pauline Nguyen was stupefying to say the least.

Voracious is the first of its kind in Australia, focusing on food and food issues with the aim of generating discussion. I chose to write a personal story about growing up as a first generation Australian, in an essay titled ABC.

The official book launch will be this Saturday during the Sydney Writers Festival, although it's already available for sale in Australia bookshops (RRP $29.95 published by Hardie Grant). The international launch date is September 1, 2011 - it's already listed for pre-orders at The Book DepositoryBorders and Walmart!

I've included my contribution below and would love to hear your thoughts about the piece, or your experiences of growing up in Australia or in another country. The launch details are at the end of this post - I won't be a part of the on-stage proceedings but I will be there!

by Helen Yee

From a young age, we were taught that food was precious. There was no question of leaving anything in your bowl. No indulgences were allowed for preference or exclusion: food was money, food was precious, food was time, and wasting anything was not an option.

‘Do you know how long it took to grow that grain of rice?’ our mother would lecture. ‘Do you know that in China when farmers would transport the rice to market, the poor people in the village would follow behind and pick up the single grains that had fallen on the ground? Do you know how lucky you are?’ she’d scold, widening her eyes for emphasis as we sighed and kept eating.

My grandma would say to my brother, ‘Every grain of rice left in your bowl will be a pockmark on the face of your future wife.’ My brother would giggle but eat his bowl clean.

I felt an awkward sense of alienation growing up – not quite Australian, not quite Chinese. I looked Chinese but I could barely speak the language. I spoke with an Aussie accent, but I didn't look ‘Australian’ . I didn't want to be different. I wanted to be Aussie, like all the popular kids at school. I longed for sun-kissed blonde hair, not boring jet-black, and freckles weren't blemishes but badges of true-blue honour I desperately wanted.

And yet most of my childhood was what you could call typically Australian. On weekends, my brother and I rode our bikes with all the neighbourhood kids, circling the block until dusk settled and the cicadas started chirping. We spent long hot summers at the local council pool; we'd climb out wet and dripping, warming our bodies on the sunbaked concrete, its rough surface sticking to our swimmers. We played cricket on the road, pulling the metal garbage bin – our wicket – back to the curb whenever a car approached. We spent what little pocket money we received at the corner shop, loading up on Redskins, Milkos and Cobbers.

Our parents packed us sandwiches for lunch, but these weren't schoolyard regulars of peanut butter or ham and cheese. Instead Dad gave us fillings of char siu, sweet barbecued pork, or Chinese-style omelette studded with ham and peas. We washed it down with sips of warm water from our drink bottles, tinged with the tongue-clinging taste of plastic.

One morning at pre-school we were to share with the class what we’d eaten for breakfast. ‘ A meat pie!’ I’d announced in triumph, but my teacher laughed and chided me for telling fibs. After school she had a quiet word with my mother about my unbridled creativity. My mother merely frowned and said, ‘Oh no, it's true. It was cold this morning so I made a hot breakfast by putting some meat pies under the griller.’ And she took my hand and led me to the car to go home.


As kids, there was no penny-dropping moment when we realised that beef came from cows and pork from pigs. We grew up seeing the bronzed roast ducks hanging by their necks in the Chinese barbecue shop. We pressed our noses against the window displaying roasted quails, pigs' intestines and orange-tinted squid, and watched in awe as the butcher cracked the breastbone of a soy sauce chicken, lifting his cleaver high in the air between each ear-splintering chop.

Meat came from animals, and it was drummed into us that we should always eat and appreciate the entire beast from head to tail. Fish was eaten whole: steamed and served with a splash of soy and a sizzle of ginger and shallots. Mum would usually end up with the abandoned fish head, but we soon realised the best part of the fish was actually in the cheek. Chicken necks went into soup, pork liver was stir-fried with onions, and a steamer basket of chicken feet was a yum cha favourite.

Yum cha was always a treat as a kid. Our parents never went out to fancy restaurants on their own. Good food was eaten together, as a family, and on irregular Sundays we'd catch the train into the city, spilling out at Central Station and following the throng of people to Chinatown.

I loved the merry chaos of it: the glorious din of chopsticks, chatter and trolley waiters calling their wares. Mum was in charge of ordering tea, usually bo-lei (pu-erh), which is believed to help digestion. Trolleys would weave between groups, avoiding the gaggle of kids underfoot. Within minutes, our table would be covered in bamboo baskets releasing plumes of steam.

The most important thing to order at yum cha was har gao, or prawn dumplings. Often the yum cha trolley would be depleted within five tables of the kitchen. Desperate diners would get up and approach the trolley with docket in hand; others would place an order with the floor manager, ensuring guaranteed delivery in the next batch.

The har gao were worth hunting, little purses of pleated dumplings holding fat chunks of cooked prawn and slivers of bamboo shoots. The dumpling skin was so thin it was almost translucent, but strong enough so it wouldn't break when picked up with chopsticks.

Every family has its own set of must-order dishes at yum cha, preferences built in from childhood and passed on from generation to generation. Our family would always order pai gwut, pork ribs steamed with black beans, garlic and soy, which should be tender and deliciously fatty. We'd dig into gow choi gau, steamed dumplings filled with prawns and flat garlic chives, and har cheong fun, silky sheets of rice noodle wrapped around plump prawns and splashed with sweet soy.

There were patty cases holding wu gok, egg-shaped dumplings filled with taro, pork mince and mushrooms, covered in a fuzzy netting of deep-fried pastry. My sister wanted jin cheung fun, rice noodle rolls fried until crispy, then smothered with a mixture of hoi sin and peanut sauce, scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Mum liked lo bak go, squares of pan-fried radish cake. My favourite was always ham sui gok, hollow golden footballs of deep-fried rice flour hiding a spoonful of seasoned pork mince. The shell was the best bit, its crisp surface giving way to a layer of sticky, stretchy and glutinous rice flour.

Occasionally we'd order ju hoong or steamed pig's blood jelly, a pile of ominous-looking, rust-coloured cubes that would splinter as soon as you tried to pick them up with chopsticks. The blood had a heavy, slightly metallic taste, offset in part by the accompanying tangle of wilted garlic chives. Mum would insist we eat at least a cube or two: ‘It's good for you.’

And of course there were chicken feet to savour, poetically named fung jao, or phoenix claw. We bit apart each joint of the claw, savouring the plump and gelatinous skin, succulent with soy, garlic, chilli and fermented black bean. It was a worthwhile exercise in patience, sucking each bone clean and depositing the remnants in a neat little pile on the side of our plates.

Some of my favourite memories of childhood were the weekends when Grandma would come to visit. Often we'd spend the entire day making dumplings, aprons tied around our waists and spots of flour in our hair. She didn’t speak much English, and I didn't speak much Chinese, but it was a happy and comfortable silence as we worked side by side.

Grandma would make the dumpling dough from scratch using glutinous rice flour. With a small length of wooden dowel, she'd roll out small lumps of dough into perfect circles, folding them over pork mince mixture and pleating them closed to make gai loong, savoury crescent-shaped dumplings. Other days she would take a small ball of dough and use her thumbs to create a deep well in its centre. She’d place a small teaspoon of sweetened black bean paste inside the cavity, pinching it closed, and then roll the ball in sesame seeds to create the dessert dumpling jin doi.

After several hours of production, we'd have trays and trays piled on the table and around the kitchen, each bearing an army of dumplings ready to be cooked. When the last scrap of dough was used, Grandma would heat up our wok so the pool of oil started to shimmer, and deep-fry the dumplings in batches until their skins turned golden.

The gai loong dumplings had a heavy starchiness to them, the skins crispy, sticky and glutinous, holding a mouthful of piping hot pork mince within. The jin doi would puff up into giant soccer balls, a hollow orb of sesame-crusted dough except for a rattle of sweet black-bean paste in the middle.


It wasn't until I left home that I realised I was more Australian than I realised. On a working holiday in the UK, alone and 16,000 kilometres from home, I found myself drawn to fellow Aussies – backpackers who shared the same sense of self-deprecating humour, believed that hard work could get you anywhere, and said ‘you bloody bastard’ with genuine affection, a phrase my English work colleagues failed to appreciate. I realised my vocabulary was peppered with Australian colloquialisms when I had to explain to new-found English mates that ‘servo’ meant petrol station, a ‘sanger’ was a sandwich, and a ‘bludger’ was someone who was lazy.

Food was a tangible reminder of home, and soon I was hunting down jars of Vegemite, boxes of Barbecue Shapes and packets of Burger Rings and Twisties at the shop for ex-pat Aussies. I baked lamingtons and Anzac biscuits, and at Christmas I made a traditional pavlova, even though it was below zero and snowing outside. I carried around a shaker of chicken salt in my backpack, a defiant stance against the soggy chips drowned in vinegar otherwise on offer. My family sent me care packages from home: a bounty of Tim Tams, Minties, Violet Crumbles and cans of pumpkin soup.

And yet in moments of homesickness, Chinatown offered the most comfort, a swarm of barely understandable Cantonese that was bewildering yet familiar. I could have been in Sydney, surrounded by clucking Chinese grandmothers, carefully examining each vegetable before deciding which one to buy. I stopped by the Chinese barbecue shops, dawdled at the fishmongers and loitered in the bakeries, stocking up on gai mei bao cocktail buns, soft glazed buns filled with a rich paste of butter, sugar and desiccated coconut.

I emailed home, suddenly desperate for Mum's recipe for steamed fish with ginger and green shallots. My mother was bemused but, I suspect, also pleased.

We had a wok but no steamer in our London flat, so we ended up snapping bamboo skewers to create a rack for our plate of fish to sit above the simmering water. The bream was steamed until just cooked, and then, following my mother’s instructions, was doused with smoking hot oil containing strips of crispy ginger.

There was a satisfying hiss as the oil hit the bream, the kitchen engulfed with the smell of fish and ginger as the oil-shocked skin took on a lustrous sheen. A gentle splash of soy and a generous sprinkle of shallots completed the dish. We ate the entire fish that evening, scooping spoonfuls of the sweet soy sauce at the bottom of the plate to soak into our bowls of fluffy white rice.


My grandparents have both passed away now, and the dishes they used to cook for us have already started to become a blur. Whenever we stopped in for a visit, my grandma would always ask, ‘Have you eaten?’ , the Chinese host’s equivalent of ‘Are you thirsty?’ and then she would reappear with sweets like haw flakes, walnut and date pastilles or White Rabbit milk lollies.

Some Sundays we'd stay for lunch, an assortment of dishes that hailed from their village of Toisan, Guangdong, in China’s south. There was always soup, a clear broth that usually held soft wedges of sweet simmered dong gwa, winter melon, grown in Grandma’s backyard, and sometimes a plate of dun dan, egg custard steamed with dried shrimp, or home-grown foo gwa, bitter melon cooked with beef. Whenever we had chicken, Grandma would take the most prized piece – the leg – and place it in my brother’s bowl.

When we were sick, Grandma would make us juk, or congee, a thick rice porridge swollen with cooked, dried oysters, beancurd skin, pork mince and slivers of green shallot, which was a meal in itself.

Before we could eat, we had to pay our respects to our elders, courteously asking them each in turn to ‘please eat’ , descending in order of seniority. Only when all the adults had commenced eating could the youngest generation touch their chopsticks.

The Chinese don’t have a lot of desserts, but my grandma and I shared a sweet tooth. I was always ready to eat a slice of her mah lai go, a fluffy cloud of steamed eggy sponge cake, or to savour a bowl of ji ma wu, a thick slurry of soup as black as mud, made from rice, sugar and black sesame seeds that Grandma would pound by hand. The soup would stain your tongue an odd shade of grey, but I loved its sweet and smoky nuttiness, and the way it would ooze languidly off the spoon.

Today I don’t know how to make half the dishes from my childhood, many of them consigned to distant memory. Google has helped me recreate some, but they never taste quite the same as when Grandma used to make them. Has a little part of my family history died, and should I have done more to prevent it?

What does it mean to be an ABC, an Australian-born Chinese? And how do I reconcile my heritage with the nationality on my passport? When shopkeepers speak to me in Chinese and I can only smile weakly in reply, why do I feel like an imposter, and why do I feel so guilty about it?

I survey the dinners I cook now: time-friendly dishes of pasta, steaks, lamb chops and salad. I wonder whether I’ ll cook traditional Chinese fare for my children, or if we'll only end up eating it in a restaurant.

Voracious will be launched during the Sydney Writers Festival:
Date: Saturday 21 May 2011
Time: 4.30pm - 5.30pm
Venue: WatersEdge, Pier 1, 11 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Cost: Free, no bookings
All details


On a housekeeping note, there were some issues with Blogger late last week which resulted in commenting and viewing errors, particularly on the Freebie Friday post. Blogger has since fixed these errors, so please do enter for your chance to win a $100 gourmet food hamper!
69 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/16/2011 05:21:00 am


  • At 5/16/2011 6:22 am, Blogger Michelle Chin said…

    I love this post a lot! I love reading about how one's roots is tied to food. About Chinese not eating much desserts... my mom cooks a lot of desserts. mung bean dessert. red bean dessert. the classic beancurd skin and barley dessert.

  • At 5/16/2011 7:16 am, Anonymous Jane L said…

    Just an email to let you know that your post has really hit home. I'm ABC too - grew up in Sydney going to primary school in the 80s (my snacks also ranged from the white rabbits and haw flakes to redskins/milkos etc) and I moved to London 6 years ago for work and am still here. I think the experiences we had growing up and we have now are so special given the strange hybrid of culture we've had exposure to. While on the whole I never questioned my growing up as being "not normal", I remember moments where I did feel different - eg being one of a handful of asian kids in early primary school, then trying to make sure it was clear I was different to the many asian immigrants who arrived in Sydney in the late 80s/90s mostly from HK..

    My grandparents moved to Aus when they were young from a village in Guangdong in China - not sure which one though. Your description of your grandparents and experiences/attitudes to food are exactly as I remember them. Especially the mah lai go. I remember my ma ma used to make this in an enamel steamer dish (same one she used to make that wobbly egg custard we used to eat with soy/peanut oil as a garnish..) and I would especially love the smooth bit that formed on the top of each slice. Loved it all but used to save the "skin" bit from the top of each slice and eat those all at the end.

    I've got a baby on the way now and my husband isn't chinese and I often think about background and what this means for our unborn son. I cannot speak cantonese but do understand most conversation (especially in restaurants!) so won't be able to teach my son those things but do think I have been brought up with certain values and attitudes that I think are a unique mix of the ABC experience. Asian/chinese values mixed in with aussie attitude and experience.

    Love your website - I come here often to keep up to date with what's going on at home. Congrats on your work being published..!

  • At 5/16/2011 7:17 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Congrats on being included in what I'm sure is an amazing collection of stories. It's amazing on the similarities I have with you when growing up. From not being allowed to leave a scrap of food on the plate to having different food in my school lunches.
    Yours is such a wonderful story!

  • At 5/16/2011 7:38 am, Anonymous Dumpling Girl said…

    Congratulations Helen. It definitely hit home with how at times I felt being an ABC, with not being either Australian or Chinese at times, and my mother used that pockmark remark to me many a times, but in relation to my future husband, lol.

  • At 5/16/2011 8:39 am, Anonymous Winnie said…

    Hi Helen, love your blog!
    I can totally relate to you growing up as an ABC. Hardest thing for me was that I grew up in a small country town where our family were the only Asians, besides the doctor and his wife.
    I love yum cha and prawn dumplings are my favourite!
    I'm heading over to the UK in 3 weeks with my partner, and I can already imagine me getting home sick and having cravings for Asian food while I'm there.
    Congrats on your writing being published!! Keep up the great work :)

  • At 5/16/2011 9:29 am, Anonymous david Wasserman said…

    Congrats Helen that is a big Coup for you! With all your hard work and dedication to the cause you deserve it...cheers David Wasserman

  • At 5/16/2011 9:37 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    Congratulations Helen! That was a beautifully written piece, I felt like you'd lifted something out of my childhood (just swap out Cantonese for Vietnamese lol) and I have to admit that I worry about the same things too!

  • At 5/16/2011 9:58 am, Anonymous Zina @ tastedbytwo said…

    Congrats Helen, what a feat! Thanks for sharing your words, they brought back many memories...

  • At 5/16/2011 10:02 am, Blogger Kate said…

    Wonderful! A heartfelt congratulations from this loyal Grab Your Fork reader x

  • At 5/16/2011 10:49 am, Blogger Apple said…

    Ah I noticed myself that Blogger were having some technical difficulties.

    Your story is beautiful and your writing is comforting to read. I'll be keeping an eye out for this book if this was a sample of how the whole book it created.
    Thank you for sharing with us. :)

  • At 5/16/2011 11:18 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    awesome congratulations helen! loved that piece and now i want to read more!

  • At 5/16/2011 11:23 am, Blogger Mel said…

    Congrats Helen - very exciting. Although I'm not an ABC, my mother is Hungarian, I can relate to quite a bit of what you have to say.

  • At 5/16/2011 11:27 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Helen!!! Congratulations, this is so exciting and so well deserved. As another ABC, there are so many details in your piece that are hand-clappingingly delightful for me. My Mum used to tell me the same sort of story your grandma told your brother to get me to clear my plate! And our shared love of ham sui gok is one of the reasons I started following your blog way back when :)

  • At 5/16/2011 11:28 am, Blogger thang @ noodlies said…

    Yeah congrats helen.. great read, great story!

  • At 5/16/2011 11:33 am, Blogger Jen said…

    Congratulations on the book! Your writing is really beautiful.
    I can relate to so many of the same things. My parents used all the same lines on me, my brother was the cherished only grandson of the family, and I have the same memories with my own grandmother making dumplings.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • At 5/16/2011 11:41 am, Blogger Dressed and Eaten said…

    Congratulations. A great piece! Such an interesting read.

    Definitely can relate to so many of that. I hope to keep and pass down my family food traditions but it's just so hard. Would have loved to have paid attention to my mother when she would cook. I love how so many of us had no choice but finish our plates. I was one annoying child and would make life very difficult for my poor mother.

  • At 5/16/2011 11:44 am, Blogger Bianca said…

    Congratulations Helen, such a beautiful piece of writing. I can relate to so much of that article as a Lebanese/Italian growing up in Australia, they may be different cultures to Chinese but very much the same experience. Great work!!

  • At 5/16/2011 11:52 am, Blogger Jennifer Reid said…

    Congratulations on the publication of your fabulous essay Helen...very well-deserved!! Thank you for sharing it in your blog; I felt like I was on your life journey with you, & can totally relate having been raised in a home filled with Lebanese culture & cuisine :)

  • At 5/16/2011 11:56 am, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    This is a story that I can relate to in many ways, not having such a dissimilar background. The same questions you ponder are much the same as ones that have come to me in the past. I'm not sure if any comfort can be drawn from this but you're not alone, as clearly indicated by other people's comments.

    Congratulations on getting the piece published in such a work. Your family must be proud :)

  • At 5/16/2011 12:03 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    First up congratulations Helen for being featured amongst an elite group of food writers! What a brilliant article you have written and I'm sure anyone who has had their parents migrate from their motherland would be able to relate to your story. I too find the struggle in trying to keep the tradition alive, I just hope that I get to preserve it somehow when it's my turn to have a family.. For now I'll just appreciate how my cultural heritage and upbringings shape me to be the person I am today.

    In regards to the leftover rice, I can't remember exactly what my parents would say to us but one of my friends told me that her parents said that each grain would be a maggot infesting inside your body when you pass away. Pleasant!

  • At 5/16/2011 12:06 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Congratulations on Voracious, you're in fantastic company.
    I loved your piece, as it exactly describes my childhood. We're fortunate to have experienced such an upbringing. And I've never let bad pronunciation and grammar stop me from ordering in Chinese restaurants and shops, lol!

  • At 5/16/2011 12:07 pm, Anonymous MissDissent said…

    Wonderful! Great piece!

  • At 5/16/2011 12:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Congratulation Helen. An outstanding piece celebrating your heritage.

  • At 5/16/2011 12:27 pm, Anonymous shawn@StreetFood said…

    That's a gorgeous piece, I rarely read anything over 2 paras on the net but this I read twice :-)

  • At 5/16/2011 12:34 pm, Anonymous jenius said…

    This is such a beautiful piece - well done Helen and congrats on being published alongside such a fabulous group of respected food writers.

    As an ABC, I can relate to so much of your story and over the last year, I too have been questioning whether I should be doing more to preserve my family heritage.

  • At 5/16/2011 1:16 pm, Anonymous Claire said…

    Gorgeously written - I had a kind of reverse childhood - a gwailo in Hong Kong who grew up thinking that rice was the only staple, that you always chose your chickens live and yum cha was the food of the gods. But it was when I went to England and was asked "are you Hongkongish?" that I realised how lucky I'd been. I live in Sydney now with my three kids and Aussie husband and have realised that my childhood memories of Hong Kong and the middle East where we went after England has given me the chance to share that love of all food to my kids and I love it.
    Embrace it all - share everything you can and stand back and see the results. Except feet. I cannot eat feet. Not ever ;-).

  • At 5/16/2011 1:33 pm, Blogger muppy said…

    Congratulations, that is excellent.

  • At 5/16/2011 1:52 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    Congrats on getting published Helen! This is a great read, I can relate to so many aspects of it growing up as an ABC. I've heard all the rice stories before too, especially the one about the grains of rice translating to the pockmarks your future husband/wife's face!

  • At 5/16/2011 1:54 pm, Blogger Anna (Morsels and Musings) said…

    beautiful. so much of my own feelings are echoed in your words. whether your heritage is chinese, italian, lebanese or some other stripe on the rainbow, i think most aussies would find some of themselves in your essay.


  • At 5/16/2011 2:07 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I'm not reading it here today, Helen - I plan to order it from Book Depository (10% off this month - it's fate) and curl up with chocolate, the book, and a cup of coffee :)

    I think I already expressed my incredibly levels of excitement when I squealed over this book at your place last month, but just in case my message didn't get through... OMGEXCITEMENTCONGRATULATIONSYOU'RETOTALLYAMAZEPANTS!

  • At 5/16/2011 2:36 pm, Anonymous Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    I LOVED your essay. Your childhood was exactly like mine! Of course I can totally relate to it even though I'm not an ABC. For me, it got a little more confusing at times because my mother was adamant in raising me as a Brit even though we spent most of our lives in Australia. I particularly remember how she would make me stand up for the British anthem and chastise me for singing to the Aussie one! Talk about an identity crisis!

    Your story about your grandmother really hit home though. I wished I learnt how to make my Mama's famous 'loh mai fan' that she'd always cook for us when we go back to Malaysia. After her stroke, I don't think that'd be possible anymore :(

    Anyway many congratulations Helen. I can't think of anybody else more deserving to have her words published.

  • At 5/16/2011 2:48 pm, Anonymous LW said…

    A lovely piece of writing. I'm a first generation ABC too, now just over 7 months away from Australia, in France. I found myself going to London to visit chinatown to get a 'taste' of home. I am also craving my mother's steamed barramundi or bream with soy sauce, ginger and shallots.

  • At 5/16/2011 3:25 pm, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    big big congrats!! i loved your story sooo much. Very well deserved to be published

  • At 5/16/2011 4:24 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    well done! very exciting! they should have mentioned your name on the official website details too i think http://www.swf.org.au/component/option,com_events/Itemid,124/agid,2839/task,view_detail they listed 13 names and there was only another 6 to add to make it complete.

  • At 5/16/2011 4:51 pm, Anonymous sara (Belly Rumbles) said…

    What a lovely article Helen. It's funny that only after my Grandmother passed away & Joshua was born did I become determine to keep the dishes of hers that I loved growing up alive. Latvian coking is not common, and it has been interesting for me finding the recipes, plus lots of trial and error to get them the way she cooked them. I have passed these recipes to Joshua and I hope to also pass them to my grandchildren. It would be nice to keep these dishes alive.

  • At 5/16/2011 4:55 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    Congratulations Helen, that's really exciting news. It's interesting that you mention the white rabbit lollies. I remember asking a housemate what the secret nougat ingredient in her truffles was. When she replied "fluffy white rabbits" I had no idea it was a brand of lollies!

  • At 5/16/2011 6:36 pm, Anonymous Christine said…

    Congratulations Helen!

    What an amazing piece you wrote - i could not stop reading it! you are clearly a very talented writer :) While I'm not an ABC, I'm a halfie who was born in Hong Kong and raised in Australia by a Filipino mum so I could definitely relate to a lot to your story.. All I can say is please write more!!! I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say we'd all love to read more!!

  • At 5/16/2011 7:09 pm, Anonymous eat, drink, stagger said…


  • At 5/16/2011 7:10 pm, Anonymous yasnakano said…

    congrats Helen!

  • At 5/16/2011 7:11 pm, Anonymous ksters said…

    nice! Congrats

  • At 5/16/2011 7:11 pm, Anonymous yosunita said…

    Congrats Helen,great read!

  • At 5/16/2011 7:12 pm, Blogger Lil said…

    Congratulations on being published!! I felt pretty nostalgic as I read your piece. It sounds a lot like my childhood!

  • At 5/16/2011 7:13 pm, Anonymous jackiemsydney said…


  • At 5/16/2011 7:20 pm, Anonymous Wholesome Cook said…

    congratulations Helen!

  • At 5/16/2011 7:21 pm, Anonymous cookrepublic said…

    Good stuff! Congratulations :-) . You go Helen!

  • At 5/16/2011 7:21 pm, Anonymous obesebaby said…

    wow congrats

  • At 5/16/2011 7:22 pm, Anonymous Steverty said…

    Great voracious post on GYF.. it made me hungry.. Congrats! :)

  • At 5/16/2011 7:23 pm, Anonymous gastromomous_a said…

    Congrats! Love ur writing:)

  • At 5/16/2011 7:23 pm, Anonymous Snaplings said…

    amazing piece of literature, I was there eating hargau with you! PS I used to swap my cheese sangos for pork floss rice :)

  • At 5/16/2011 7:36 pm, Anonymous Jonathon Clarke said…

    WOW! This was so wonderfully written, I just didn't want to stop reading! Congratulations on your well deserved success ~ you should be justifiably very, very proud. xo

  • At 5/16/2011 8:11 pm, Blogger Viv said…

    congrats helen :D must be super exciting to see YOUR NAME on the cover of a good!! what a great read...yoru writing is always great to read and evokes certain emotions around food :)

  • At 5/16/2011 9:42 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen, Congratulation on being published. I really enjoyed reading your post, so many things that I can relate to as a Chinese Australian. Your last paragraph is quite poignant to me, I often think about the food I cook and eat and it makes me realise that I need to make the effort to learn more from my parents cooking otherwise the tradition will be lost. Stefanie

  • At 5/16/2011 9:47 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Awesome, you've written my story too! Food brings everyone together regardless of what culture and background people are from, that's why I love our foodie tribe!

  • At 5/16/2011 11:56 pm, Blogger Von said…

    Congratulations! And wow...I loved this piece- there's so much that I can relate to! :D

  • At 5/17/2011 8:25 am, Anonymous Nic@diningwithastud said…

    So great to learn about other bloggers history. Congrats on the book and look forward to seeing it :)

  • At 5/17/2011 4:58 pm, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Such a wonderful and heart felt post Helen. Congratulations on being featured in the book...I am so happy for you!

  • At 5/17/2011 10:29 pm, Blogger Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said…

    I was really moved by this piece Helen, it is absolutely relatable and I just want to say thank you for sharing this story. Growing up in the philippines my grandparents and even great grandparents would also scold me if I had any rice left on my plate!
    Recently, both Demos and I have made an effort to learn recipes from our parents and grandparents.. although we both identify ourselves as being Aussie as anything, I know one day years from now we will be craving his yia yia's moussaka and my dad's crispy pata.. with a pavlova for dessert of course!

    Congratulations on this well deserved publication!

  • At 5/18/2011 12:31 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    A lovely piece of writing, and my childhood in every word... Well, apart from the sports and outdoor activities. And my parents never met any of my teachers, mainly because of a language barrier. So growing up for me involved "being" Chinese at home and Aussie at school, but I'm sure my omelette sandwiches would've given it away too =p

    I've married an ABC who grew up in a rural NSW, so his childhood experiences differ from mine in Sydney quite a bit. We do plan on imparting a sense of Chinese-ness into our children but I'm sure there'll be much more "Westerness" than what we both grew up with.

    And a big, big congratulations!

  • At 5/18/2011 10:41 am, Anonymous Chanel said…

    Congratulations! I really enjoyed reading your piece - it is such a great insight into food, culture, memories, and growing up. Thanks for sharing :)

  • At 5/18/2011 3:35 pm, Anonymous Apex@blueapocalypse said…

    Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your story. I am an ABC too but like you I feel like a banana, yellow on the outside but more white on the inside. I am thankful that I have kept my language because my mum didn't speak any English so we had to speak Chinese at home. I only started really getting into cooking about 3 years ago when I moved out of home and realised that I needed to be able to cook for myself so I have been asking my mum and dad for recipes and cooking a lot of dishes that I grew up with and sharing them on my own blog. I want to be able to cook Chinese/Vietnamese cuisine and be able to pass it down to my children. I am also very glad that I grew up with this type of food because it is so delicious and I prefer it to other cuisines. It's never too late to start learning you could try to cook a different Chinese dish each week and blog about it :)

  • At 5/18/2011 5:22 pm, Blogger idontcryieat said…

    Congratulations, Helen! Your childhood story reminds me a little bit of mine- I ate meat pies for brekkie too in primary school only to invite curious looks by my non-Asian friends.
    Love your work! keep it up :)

  • At 5/19/2011 2:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Excellent writing, congratulations on your appearance in the book. Will buy it asap!

  • At 5/19/2011 4:11 pm, Blogger susan said…

    Wow congratulations! That is such a great read.

  • At 5/19/2011 7:07 pm, Anonymous Mrs Pigflyin said…

    Congratulations and beautiful writings as always! It is great that Australia has its own book on food writings finally.

    It is no surprise to see so many people can relate to your story but it is strange to me that a lot of people tend to relate the lost of traditions to immigrations. In my experience, migrants hold onto their traditions very strongly in fear of getting criticized by their families and friends back home of “losing their heritage”. This is evident by the great Southern Chinese food you can find in Singapore/ Malaysia cook by Chinese immigrants who have insisted in doing things the traditional ways. There are some products that I can easily buy in Sydney but can no longer (or rarely) get at home and I give full credits and admiration to the migrants in Sydney for keeping these traditions going.

    Every family is losing some of its heritage and traditions in this modern age. Why speak a dialect when everyone is speaking the main language? Why spend time in preparing the non-prime cuts when you can slab a piece of sirloin on the grill in two seconds? Roast chicken and lamb shoulder should be regular dishes at home, not a special at fancy restaurants.

    It is great to see people are cooking at home more, growing their own vegies, and offal is making a comeback. Just hope these are more than fashionable trends and people can really bring some traditions back as their normal way of life. I am sure it doesn’t take the collaborations of too many ABCs to recreate the dishes from the grandparents.

  • At 5/19/2011 7:57 pm, Anonymous Kay said…

    love your entry helen! :)

  • At 5/23/2011 10:44 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Congrats on the great article!
    My family originates from Toisan as well. Whenever I visit my grandparents in Guangzhou, they'll take me there to show me their old house and we always eat these dumpling-like glutinous balls. I don't remember if there's any filling inside those balls though. Sometimes I wonder if and how I could go there to visit in the future. Have you been to Toisan?

  • At 5/27/2011 12:57 pm, Anonymous jiddie said…

    Congratulations Helen. Always enjoy reading GYF!

  • At 6/14/2011 9:35 pm, Anonymous JasmyneTea said…

    I just saw this essay, and something about it really struck a chord with me: I was born and grew up here in Sydney, and my dad's side are anglo Aussies going back to the 18th Century, but my mum is Maori, and it's hard, being so Australian in my mannerisms, but looking nothing like the rest of my father's family. Likewise, it's hard when people speak Maori to me and I feel like I've let them down somehow by not understanding. There's also a sense of confusion as to my cultural identity in that I also have German, Scottish and Irish ancestry. All I'm going to say is that I feel sorry for my future children, because Stephen is Maltese and Polish, lol!
    Congratulations :)

  • At 10/31/2011 7:09 pm, Anonymous Criss said…

    Congratulations Helen. I loved this post!


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