My Father's Only Recipe

By Kim Liao

July 26, 2021

My Father's Only Recipe

First, take pork spare ribs. Hack them up with an impossibly large cleaver into bite-sized pieces. Rub them with a proprietary mix of star anise, black beans, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, and secrets. Never ask him what happened in Taiwan, or why his mother never spoke the name of her former husband again.

Marinate for at least two hours, but preferably overnight, or maybe 23 years. He never felt the need to tell his daughter where this recipe came from.

She would discover its origins on her own, when it began to haunt her, when she realized that finding his family’s past was her only path forward—although she would shy away from the search when she was too frightened.

That’s okay. Let it marinate. She will find her way back when she can’t stand the thought of him never seeing her complete the search for their family.

Cook. She doesn’t remember how—what level of heat, how long—because it’s been so long since her father made this dish for her. But she’s mastered enough recipes to imagine that he would sear the ribs on high heat, getting some crispy caramelization, and then transfer them to a crock pot to simmer low and slow.

The spareribs gradually yield, growing tender, secrets seeping into every crevice, until they are buttery soft and falling off the bone.


Photo "Stockpot" provided by OttawaAC, via creative commons license.


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