"Samgyeopsal is the deliciously greasy, thick, and savory slices of pork belly usually ordered at Korean barbecue. For me, it's all that, plus a chance for me to have a long drawn-out meal with my family that's broken up and guided along by the ritual of cooking, flipping, and cutting meat. My family has always prepared samgyeopsal to commemorate birthdays, anniversaries, and reunions, and I've always associated it with good company and good times."
Saucy Naughty Bean Jello
"Saucy Naughty Bean Jello is a cold, savory side dish my mother makes, typically alongside dumplings. The sauce is a blend of soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oils, and the cucumber makes for a refreshing topping to temper the spiciness. It was usually made at special occasions spent with friends and family."
"I remember going to the Asian market and my mom getting them if I was good. It always got stuck in my teeth, but I loved eating it."
"This is a super-simple Japanese dish: grilled salmon with a pinch of salt for taste, a Japanese omelet, seaweed salad with beans and root vegetables, miso soup, and rice with sticky fermented beans or nattō. Nattō sounds and smells disgusting to foreigners, but it's a side I've been eating with my rice since I could chew food.
"My mom makes it for us for dinner, whereas at my grandmother's place we would eat this kind of dish for breakfast. It's my all-time-favorite comfort food."
"Rice porridge! In Thai, we call it khao tom. My mom would make this with shrimp; dried, shredded pork; or Chinese sausage. My non-Thai friends would think the dried, shredded pork was so weird, but I loved it."
"Shoyu chicken is a Hawaiian staple found at most local drive-ins and diners. It’s humble fare, a kind of Asian soul food composed of chicken thighs soaked and boiled in a base of soy sauce, ginger, and garlic — and, due to its salty deliciousness, it must be eaten with a mound of steaming hot rice, no exceptions. A side of mac salad (chilled macaroni pasta infused with mayo) is the cherry on top.
"My mom would have a pot simmering when I came home from basketball practice. In a twist, she substituted wings for thighs and added a special marinade, which filled the house with a sweetly pungent aroma. I’d devour the plate with my fingers, even as a teenager. It made me feel like a kid again."
"My mom makes these delicious dumplings filled with ground pork, chives, and sometimes crab meat. She makes the filling first and then folds it into premade skins. She taught me when I was little, and sometimes we'd sit and fold a big batch together. They're perfect in broth with dried shrimp and seaweed."
"My grandfather taught me how to make matar paneer on his 90th birthday. This is an Indian dish consisting of Indian cheese with peas in a tomato sauce with spices. As I was cooking, the aroma reminded me of both him and my grandmother, whom I haven't seen in years. The smells took me back to living in my childhood home in England surrounded by family."
"My grandma used to make the whole fish for New Year's and give me the eyeballs because it would make me smart."
"Char siu barbecue pork, with the slightly burnt edges, always brings a smile to my face. It reminds me of my childhood when I’d be sitting at the dinner table while my grandpa would use his large butcher knife to masterfully chop the meat into bite-size pieces and give them to me, still warm from the oven."
"This is a rich, hearty fusion comfort food that reminds me of being at my grandma's or auntie's houses as a kid, playing with my cousins and, of course, eating!
"Unlike Italian spaghetti, Filipino spaghetti is sweet and savory. It's sweetened with sugar and banana ketchup (banana and tomato base...a Filipino staple condiment). Instead of meatballs, the sauce has ground pork, lunch meat, and sliced hot dog. It's served with melted shredded cheese on top, usually cheddar."