American-ish Chinese-ish (Recipe)

My "typical" American breakfast.

My "typical" American breakfast.

While I was born in the U.S., my upbringing was anything but typical American. But what does it mean to be a typical American anyway? says that, “People from all over the world have immigrated to the United States. Therefore, it is very difficult to define a typical American, as there is no such thing. However, a majority of the current Americans are of European descent; therefore, the description below is primarily with that in mind.” 

This explains why sitcoms, movies, and books I grew up with in the mid ‘80s and ‘90s reverberated with cultural themes that I had a hard time identifying with. There’s a memorable scene from Full House that confused the shit out of me when I was ten years old. (Shockingly, or maybe not so shockingly, the clip is available on YouTube. Watch it here.) 

Michelle: What are you making for breakfast, Dad?
Danny: Something to go, kids. We’re running late.
Michelle: But I want Belgian waffles, apple smoked bacon, and sourdough toast, lightly buttered. 
Stephanie: And I want straight A’s, world peace, and Brad Pitt – lightly buttered. 
Danny: No buttered bread and definitely, no buttered Brad. If we’ve got time for anything, you can stick your finger through. [Danny slips a bagel over Michelle’s index finger.]

Woah. Hold the phone! Say what?

At the time, the breakfast foods Michelle Tanner rattled off seemed both amazing and mysterious. I knew what waffles, bacon, and toast were, but what were these Belgian, apple smoked, and sourdough varieties that I had neither tasted nor seen before? As it is to be human and want what one cannot have, I wanted to have Danny Tanner cook breakfast for me. This is not to say my mom didn’t try to inject a little bit of that typical American flavor into my meals. She’d make me bacon and egg sandwiches. Or there was always a pack of Eggo waffles in my freezer. 

Po-Po on the other hand was always suspicious of the typical American diet. She couldn’t understand how these flat yellow disks in plastic bags, heated in a toaster for a mere 2 minutes, then drenched in thick, brown syrup could be nutritious. Plus at age 70, she could not be bothered with shortcuts. She preferred the old world methods of food prep: soaking red beans then cooking them on the stove for hours, proofing and kneading dough for her red bean buns, or hand making mochi for her Jiu Niang Tang Yuan [酒酿汤圆] or fermented rice mochi soup. (I swear, it’s tastier than it sounds.) 

Since then, I’ve been lucky to incorporate a lot unconventional foods into my diet. Bottarga on eggs? Check. Eikorn wheat bread? Sign me up. Almond milk and kale smoothies? Duh, I live in New York. With my Full House fan girl days behind me, my Rockwellian notion of what it means to be a typical American has changed as well. I’m both a typical American and anything but typical. 

Get the recipe for Jiu Niang Tang Yuan and watch the video below...


Jiu Niang Xiao Tang Yuan 酒酿汤圆
Makes two servings or one large serving

2 cups + 2 Tbs water
4 Tbs Fermented Rice (Jiu Niang or Tian Jiu - you can buy this at a Chinese grocery store, or, make it at home)
1 egg, beaten 
3 Tbs glutinous rice flour 
Sugar (optinal) 

In a small bowl, mix 2 Tbs water and glutinous rice flour. When combined, mixture will be smooth and not sticky. Roll the dough between your palms until it’s about 2 inches long. Break tiny 1/2 inch pieces off and roll each piece into a small ball. Set aside. 
In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups water to boil. 

Add fermented rice. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn heat down to low. Slowly add egg and swirl the soup with chopsticks gently. Add rice balls. Let the soup cook for another 3 - 5 minutes. Add sugar to taste. Serve.