Tag Archives: cuisine

My Favorite foods to cook in College

By Tiffany Mays

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Over the years, cooking has been a form of catharsis for me. Between class and work, cooking is one of the easiest ways for me to take time out of my schedule for myself. Amongst the highs and the lows of everyday life, preparing food allows me to express myself in ways beyond words. It helps me remember who I am and put aside my worries and insecurities if just for a minute. Each food has a signature scent that I often associate with a moment in my life. Filling the room with aromatic smells of crispy, savory, spicy, or citrusy meals, it’s often hard to pick just one dish. In spite of the array of options available, I always seem to cook exactly what I want. These dishes not only smell delicious, but also help me reminisce on my past, think about the present, and look towards the future as well.

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Food is like an art form, and as the artist I feel it is up to me to create something beautiful whenever I step into the kitchen. Without a doubt, cooking is an art that requires hours of practice, repetition, discipline, and patience. The intricacies of cooking go far beyond simply combining ingredients together, but knowing what flavors, textures, and aromas go together to form the perfect dish. To be an artist in the kitchen is harder than it looks, and trust me I’ve tried. After watching a few Food Network shows, it might seem easy, but chef’s spend years perfecting their craft. While I cannot say that I am there yet, I hope to be in the near future.

The joy of cooking is such an easy thing to incorporate into your life, but many don’t know what dishes they might like to cook. Here’s a few of my favorite dishes to cook in the kitchen for inspiration:

Photo by Max Delsid on Unsplash

Dinner

  • Jerk chicken, rice and peas, and fried plantains

Growing up in a West Indian household, my mom used to make this quite often for our family. Making it now really reminds me of home, and the comfort I felt at that time.

  • Chicken or shrimp empanadas and yellow rice

One of my favorite restaurants in New York City is a Cuban restaurant that served this exact dish at their establishment. While simple, this dish is always a staple in my diet, and easy to make from scratch. 

  • Chicken Parmesan

Inspired by some of the food I used to get in Little Italy, I like to make this dish once per week. One of my favorite pasta sauce’s to pair it with is Rao’s Marinera Sauce.

  • Chicken Lo Mein

Whether I use udon noodles or regular spaghetti noodles for this dish, it always tastes good. I prefer to use bok choy, broccoli, carrots, and green onions for my vegetables, but it’s really up to you what you would like to include.

Photo by Peter Pham on Unsplash

Appetizers

  • Fried Chicken Wings

After marinating the chicken overnight in a mixture of spices, you can’t go wrong with fried chicken wings. It’s a quick and easy meal that everyone loves to eat.

  • Shrimp Calamari

This dish is one of my favorite things to get when I go back home, and is super easy to make at home!

Photo by Aneta Voborilova on Unsplash

Dessert

  • Beignets

These French pastries pair really nicely with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee in the morning.

  • Coconut Cupcakes

Cupcakes are super easy to make from scratch, and by adding a little bit of vanilla and almond extract they taste even better! The coconut adds a fun new flavor that you don’t often see in cupcakes.

I hope this list gave you some ideas for dishes you would like to cook. If you want to start cooking regularly but are still having trouble planning out your meals, I recommend making a list of dishes you know you like and referencing this before you go to the grocery store so you will know what ingredients you need to get for the week!

Featured Image by Abbey Houston on Unsplash

Tiffany is a Master’s Student from New York City studying Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Her Bachelor’s degree is from USC in Human Biology on the Applied Physiology track with a Minor in Health Care Studies. She hopes to pursue a MD-PhD in the near future. She has conducted molecular biology, stem cell biology, and cancer biology research at UPC, HSC, and CHLA. On campus, she participated in many student organizations such as GlobeMed at USC and the Marching Band where she played flute. In her free time, she likes baking, exploring LA, trying new food, and hanging out with friends.

Have A Bowl of Crossing-the-bridge Rice Noodles Before Exams

By Qianhui Ni

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4.5 minute read]

What do you normally do before an important exam? In some cultures, people will pray to the god of wisdom, or avoid washing their hair because it is believed to wash the knowledge out of the brain. Some tend to wear clothes with lucky colors. For me, my pre-exam ritual is to have a bowl of crossing-the-bridge rice noodles.

Crossing-the-bridge Rice Noodles from Ludingji at San Gabriel

In Yunnan, China, the local people’s diet holds rice noodles to an equal status as rice. Different from rice noodles from other provinces, the traditional Yunnan rice noodles are made of fermented and milled rice. Thus, they have a very slightly sour taste due to the longer fermentation time in the production process. Crossing-the-bridge rice noodles are the most famous cooking method of these noodles. The soup base is stewed with pork ribs, fresh chicken, fresh duck, and Yunnan ham. After simple seasoning, the thick soup must stay boiling and be put into a large, insulated bowl. You can then add fresh fish slices, fresh tenderloin slices, mung bean sprouts, and mushroom slices to the soup individually. My favorite ingredient to add are fresh raw quail eggs. As the raw quail egg touches the soup, the color of the egg white and yolk changes even before they start changing shape in the broth. This is how we magically make a soft boiled egg in a fully intact shape. When I was a little kid, I always wanted to complete this part by myself but was stopped by my parents since the temperature of the soup was too high. 

You are probably wondering why this dish is named “crossing-the-bridge” and why it is connected to pre-exam rituals. One well-accepted version of its origin story goes like this: in the Qing Dynasty, a scholar living in southern Yunnan used to go study at a pavilion in the middle of a lake to prepare for the imperial examination. To support him, his wife often made his favorite rice noodles and brought them to the pavilion. Every time she got there, the rice noodles had already become cold. One day, she accidentally found out that the thick layer of chicken fat covering the soup helped it stay at a high temperature. The rice noodles, the meat, and the vegetables actually tasted more refreshing if they were put in right before eating. Since then, she always stewed the soup with chicken and other meat first, and waited until she arrived at the pavilion before putting in the extra thinly sliced ingredients and rice noodles. With her support, the scholar eventually got the highest exam score. Because every time the scholar’s wife needed to walk across a bridge to reach the pavilion, people named this cooking method “crossing-the-bridge rice noodles” in order to commemorate this talented woman. Since then, having a bowl of crossing-the-bridge rice noodles has become a popular pre-exam ritual for many local people. 

Spicy Rice Noodles from Ludingji at City of Industry

As part of the cultural heritage of Yunnan, China, crossing-the-bridge rice noodles have become a top cuisine that no visitor to the region should miss out on. Before I went to college, I used to take it for granted because there are so many restaurants that sell it in my hometown. I did not realize how hard it is to find authentic crossing-the-bridge rice noodles until I started my life in another country. However, after visiting almost all the Yunnan restaurants in LA, I found two good ones where you can get a taste of this traditional cuisine: 

Yunnan Restaurant:

You can find two Yunnan Restaurants in LA: one is located in San Gabriel, and the other one is in Monterey Park. Here, when ordering crossing-the-bridge rice noodles, you will have the chance to add all of the ingredients to the boiling soup yourself. Apart from the rice noodles, don’t miss the amazing Chinese Salad with different cold meats or vegetables in spicy sauce. 

Casserole Rice Noodles from Yunnan Garden in Hacienda Heights

Yunnan Garden:

Located in Hacienda Heights, Yunnan Garden has a more spacious dining area. The crossing-the-bridge rice noodles here are put in a big bowl in which the cook has already put in all the ingredients and rice noodles. The soup base is great and I’m sure you will love it. 

If you want to try a new pre-exam ritual before a major exam, try the crossing-the-bridge rice noodles and remember the story of the scholar and the talented wife, and hopefully it will bring you good luck.

Featured Image by Frank Zhang on Unsplash

Qianhui is a doctoral student majoring in Psychology. She received a B.S. in Psychology from East China Normal University in 2019. She is interested in how children learn about social agents and the social world. When she isn’t working in the lab, Qianhui enjoys traveling, reading novels, watching movies, and cooking.  

Soy Sauce spaghetti and Butterfly Migration: Growing Up as a Second Generation American

By Jacqueline Tran

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

My Grandpa, or “goong goong” – the Cantonese phrase for Grandfather – was a chef and grew up in Hong Kong. He obtained citizenship and immigrated with his family to the United States because of his cooking abilities, which makes me a second generation American. As a result, my family traditions have always been a unique blend of classic Asian dishes and holidays mixed with American traditions. One of these traditions is a soy sauce spaghetti dish my grandfather made all the time when I was younger. The ingredients include green onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, spaghetti noodles, chicken base, ketchup, salt, oil, sugar, soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. My sisters and I loved it, and it satisfied my other second generation cousins’ tastes too. Thinking about this dish makes me aware that my taste is made up of not only my ethnicity, personality, and family, but also the generation that I was born in.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Being a second generation American has allowed me to live as an American while hearing first hand accounts of growing up in another culture from both of my parents. I’ve heard stories about what it was like in Vietnam to eat raw mangoes with fish sauce- before they got ripe, so the animals wouldn’t get to them first- and what it was like to grow up there during the Vietnam war. I’ve heard what it was like for my Chinese grandparents to immigrate from China, with uncertainty and the drive to create more opportunities for their children.

There is a poet and artist named Morgan Harper Nichols, who writes: “Lessons from Monarch Butterfly Migration…Because the lifespan of the monarch butterfly is only a few weeks, it actually takes multiple generations to finally make it back to the north…The monarch butterfly is a reminder of what it means to pave the way. To carry on on a journey that you might not actually live to see the end of.” After reading this, I wondered what events would happen in the future because of the way I live my life now-at school, at work, or with friends. I recognized that I am like the monarch butterfly who makes it to the north (or in this case America) to live the American dream. I attend a university in the United States and get to study for opportunities that weren’t available to the generations before me. I’m a student at USC because of what my grandparents and parents have worked for. I am living the life I am because of ancestors I’ll never know.

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