Sit at the dinner table #8 Toasted Steamed Bun (烤馒头片) – Dad, is that you?



The other day, I made the steamed bun. Most of the Chinese families eat steamed bun as breakfast, not bread. And before I came to the US, I had never seen a toaster.

For the leftover steamed bun, you can re-steam it or toast it in the Chinese way: in a pan on the stove. I had added oil to fancy the “toasting”, pan frying it. While I was doing it, the morning sunlight came in from the kitchen window. For a moment, I saw my dad, standing in front of a brick and mud self-made stove (he built it), carefully and patiently toasting a few pieces steamed bun for me and my brother. The morning Sun from an open door to a huge rooftop deck, a shared place for all the college students and teachers‘ families, who co-lived in the dorm like building, shed light on my dad’s side. I could see he was paying great attention to what he was doing, making sure the toast was golden brown and crispy to me and my brother’s taste. If the cooking oil was not rationed, I was sure that my dad would pan fried them like I did it in my kitchen.

My dad was a busy college teacher but he always made sure that he would do whatever he could to bring nutritious and tasty foods on the table for his family. Sometimes, thinking about my love for foods and cooking, it is rooted in the family. My mom is a great cook and my dad was a great shopper.

Seeing my dad riding a bicycle, full of fresh vegetables, fish, and occasionally some meat on each side of the bicycle handle, back from half day’s grocery hunting trip is forever sealed in my memory. I was in my early teens, craving proteins every minute when I was not asleep. My brother was the same. But meat, eggs, and cooking oil were all rationed. It was quite a challenge for my parents, actually, almost every parent at that time to get quality foods on the dinner table. My dad managed to find a small restaurant deep in an alley, which sold meat scraped off the bones that did not require a meat ration ticket. And my mom could cook any kind of fish for a very delicious meal. Lucky me and my brother!

The steamed bun on the stove gradually pan-fried to a nice golden color, the oil brought out the aroma of the wheat, reminded me of the toast my dad did for us many years ago. I looked up, to the morning sunlight, quietly asking: “Is that you, dad?”


PS: the photo above is a collection of food ration tickets that a friend of mine saved.

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