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Tea and Marriage, Separation and Fried Chicken

August 31, 2012

Tea and poetry–what a beautiful marriage!

“With a smile and the warmth of

… a cup of tea, you caught me”

In black ink scrawled across college ruled paper, these simple words are strung together like precious pearls gracing a debutante’s soft neck. They offer a fleeting taste of the entire pie–a heartfelt poem of several stanzas that arrived in the mail, charged with the emotion of separation, the faint scent of a faraway place lingering between the lines.

Tea, like grey Seattle skies and the inconsistency of constancy, has always been a part of our lives. My husband claims he fell in love with me when I served him a cup of tea at my brother’s house all those years ago. We gave away sachets of jasmine tea at our wedding. And on many a cold, wintry evening, when the chill seeped deep into our bones, we’d share a hot pot of tea to thaw ourselves out.

On this day, my husband and I celebrate 10 years of marriage. Our hearts proudly bear the battle scars.

As newlyweds in England, I, lonesome and failing miserably at being a wife in a foreign land, fled home to Singapore to seek comfort under my mother’s wing and the familial company of old friends. He thought I was never coming back. I did.

Then came the arrival of a child we waited five heartbreaking years for. Silly us. We had absolutely no clue what we were in for. The sleep deprivation. A super-fussy baby whose wails could rival the queen of the banshees. To “cry it out” or not to “cry it out.” Did I mention the sleep deprivation? That baby is now a beautiful toddler, and a beacon who shows us the way and reminds us why we’re journeying.

Over the years, oh, how the seams of our relationship have heaved and ho’ed under the strain of having a spouse who’s just as obligated to his country as he is to his family. One transatlantic move, three cross-country moves (and counting), and two run-ins with the USCIS later, like rock that’s weathered by wind and rain, we’ve been through rough times but we’re not broken. We’re just transformed.

We’ve come a long way, but the journey is not yet over.

Sadly, at this milestone, we’re separated by 11-1/2 hours, 6,720 miles, 2 continents, and a damn war that won’t go away.

So here I am, raising my cup of tea to a decade of married life, with a plateful of mochiko chicken on the table and an Omar-shaped hole in my heart.


Mochiko Fried Chicken

mochiko chicken_edit3

One of my husband’s favorites, mochiko fried chicken, with mixed grains and burgundy tomatoes

My husband eats just about everything I cook but his eyes light up and he gushes every time I make mochiko chicken. This is one recipe from my cookbook that he didn’t mind me testing over and over and over again. I can almost guarantee that it’ll be one of his first requests for a home-cooked meal when he returns from his year-long deployment. In his honor, I’m sharing it with you today so you can share it with your loved ones near and far.

I made this dish my own by using tapioca starch (Southeast Asian cooks prefer this to cornstarch) which I think gives the chicken a crispier edge and nira (Japanese chives) instead of green onions.

Seek out Koda Farms Blue Star brand of mochiko, flour made from Japanese sweet rice (which is similar to glutinous rice) in the Asian aisle of many supermarkets.

Time: 45 minutes, plus marinating
Makes: 4 to 6 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal

2-1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mochiko
1/4 cup tapioca starch (or cornstarch)
1/4 cup sugar
Small bunch nira (or green onions), chopped (1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Vegetable oil for shallow frying

Debone the chicken, and reserve the bones to make stock. Cut the meat into 2-inch chunks.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, soy sauce, mochiko, tapioca starch, sugar, nira, and garlic. Tumble in the chicken and toss to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably 12 hours.

Bring the chicken to room temperature before frying.

Line a plate with paper towels. In a large heavy skillet, heat about 1 inch of oil over high heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Reduce the heat to medium. Using tongs or cooking chopsticks, carefully lower thickly coated chicken pieces one at a time into the oil. You are shallow-frying, so the pieces will only be half submerged. Fry in a batch of 7 to 8 pieces (don’t overcrowd the pan) until both sides are crispy and evenly golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, shaking off excess oil, and drain on paper towels. Use a slotted spoon or a wire mesh strainer to remove any debris from the oil and repeat until all the chicken is cooked.

Serve hot with freshly steamed short-grain rice, or cold as an appetizer or picnic food.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Martha permalink
    September 22, 2012 10:03 pm

    I love this Pat! Just read it. Your ability to weave life and food in story is remarkable.

    • October 4, 2012 1:29 am

      Thank you, Martha! I love to write how food is related to life because that’s what makes stories interesting!

  2. September 13, 2012 12:03 am

    I love that your husband fell in love with you over tea and that you had tea bags as your wedding favors. Sounds like tea will always have a precious place in your life. Happy anniversary! A toast to you with some tea.😉

    • September 19, 2012 11:48 pm

      Hi Carolyn, Yes tea does have a very special place in our lives. You should see my tea collection. Thank you for your well wishes!

  3. Leah permalink
    September 7, 2012 2:50 pm

    Pat, this is very touching. I think you are very brave. Happy Anniversary!

    • September 20, 2012 12:07 am

      Thank you , Leah. It is tough being apart but we are coping as best as we can, It helps to be home with family and to have support especially with Isaac.

  4. Alcor permalink
    September 4, 2012 11:44 am

    Happy anniversary! Wishing you both many more fried chicken meals together.🙂

  5. September 3, 2012 7:25 pm

    Lovely choice! I’ve tried mochiko fried chicken few times before but never had a recipe for it, I’ll give it a go with this one. Nice one!

  6. September 1, 2012 2:57 pm

    Beautiful post… wishing a safe return for your husband so you can both enjoy this lovely dish together.🙂

  7. Linda A permalink
    August 31, 2012 12:09 pm

    Beautifully written.

  8. August 31, 2012 12:04 pm

    Happy Anniversary! This looks like yummy kara age. I am sure you are looking forward to a happy reunion. Gambatte Pat!

  9. August 31, 2012 4:47 am

    My husband is not in the military, but I recognize so much from this post — the commitment to service, the relocations, the separation, the anxiety, the love. Thank you for sharing this post AND your recipe. Happy anniversary! May you celebrate together with fried chicken VERY soon.


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