The Story of a Household In 100 Recipes


To converse with the Leung household is to search out your self dropped instantly into the center of a dialog that has spanned a long time. Speaking over one another, laughing at one another’s jokes and making references to long-time household legacies, the Leungs are boisterous and humorous, snug and glad to be collectively. It’s precisely the vibe you need if you sit down at a kitchen desk. 

This is fortunate, as a result of the Leungs have made a enterprise out of cooking collectively. 

The story of their weblog, The Woks of Life, begins in 2013, when dad and mom Bill and Judy moved to Beijing for work, whereas daughters Sarah and Kaitlin stayed behind within the US to attend school. Quickly, the household group chat was stuffed with images of what everybody was cooking or consuming. Food grew to become a method for the household to test in on one another. “Everyone OK?” That’s a message that might simply be answered with a snap of a steaming bamboo tray of dumplings or a effervescent plate of spaghetti and meatballs. 

But whereas meals linked the clan, Sarah and Kaitlin discovered there was nonetheless a disconnect. They didn’t know learn how to make the identical recipes that they had grown up consuming, the recipes that Judy and Bill had cooked for years on the household restaurant. The daughters needed to study. 

So Sarah began the weblog to doc the essential recipes in her household. Now, practically 10 years later, the Leungs have a loyal following and a brand new cookbook, additionally known as The Woks of Life. In it, they share not simply the recipes they’ve spent years perfecting however the tales of their household. Interspersed with directions on learn how to make the right scorching and bitter soup or braised pork stomach are household images and essays, little glimpses into the household that’s actually inviting you to share a meal with them. 

Now, all 4 members dwell close to one another in New Jersey, the place Judy and Bill have a small plot of land to backyard and lift chickens, alpacas and geese. Modern Farmer style=”font-weight: 400;”> bought an opportunity to sit down down with the Leung household to speak about their new e-book and the way they choose one another’s recipes.

This interview has been edited for size and readability. 

Modern Farmer: Obviously, meals is essential to your loved ones. When did rising your personal meals change into essential to you all?

Bill: [When I was growing up], we lived in upstate New York, and once I was 5, my mom simply took a hoe to the yard and dug a reasonably sizable backyard. She would develop Chinese greens, like snow peas [and] beans, and he or she was good at it. She actually had a inexperienced thumb. It got here so naturally to her that once I began doing it by myself, I used to be like rattling, that is arduous. 

Sarah: Was she rising these greens since you guys had been deep within the boonies and didn’t have entry to Chinese greens?

Bill: That was a giant cause. But she additionally grew up in a farming neighborhood, and he or she used to inform me tales about going to the fields and planting rice and driving the water ox!

But it’s at all times been natural. I refuse to place any type of business, typical fertilizer there. Over the final 12 months, we’ve actually spent loads of time and deal with composting and replenishing the soil

MF: That should preserve you busy. Who is the recipe developer amongst you all? Who comes up with the concepts? 

Sarah: Well, all 4 of us contribute equally on the recipe entrance. In the e-book, about 25 p.c of the recipes are performed by every of us, and there was loads of recipe switching, too. If one in every of us would get caught on one in every of our recipes, and we’ve performed it eight occasions already and it’s simply not coming collectively, we may swap between us. 

Once the recipe is developed, and also you prepare dinner it and really feel assured about it, then the opposite three members of the family style it and provides their feedback.

MF: Judy, Bill, you guys labored in Bill’s dad and mom’ restaurant, so I’d assume that loads of these dishes you’ve been cooking for a very long time. How do you strategy one thing that’s so traditional to try to discover a unique approach on it?

Kaitlin: For us, it’s not about discovering a unique approach. It’s about discovering the issues that the common individual could have, attempting to anticipate the pace bumps within the kitchen and adapt them. 

Bill: Sometimes, it’s simply slight enhancements on the recipe. Maybe altering up the ratio of oyster sauce or soy sauce. Judy stated it the opposite day, that each recipe might be improved—and it’s true. And we do that usually. Once we attain the purpose the place we’ve tweaked it sufficient, then we’ll really publish it.

Kaitlin: This cookbook is our household’s story advised by meals. When we strategy these sorts of recipes, we’re attempting to protect what we really feel is essentially the most good, nostalgic model of what that recipe is. In your head, when you’ve got this style reminiscence of a dish, that’s how we strategy loads of the recipes. And , hopefully, different folks discover that they’re acquainted and type of carry consolation. 

MF: The e-book definitely is your loved ones’s story, not simply with the recipes however the footage and reminiscences shared. How did you come to the choice to get so private with it? 

Sarah: On the weblog, our tagline is “a culinary family tree.” We needed the cookbook to really feel like half household album, half cookbook. 

You know, for my mother’s scallion pancake recipe, she tells a narrative of how she used to take a couple of pennies to purchase a scallion pancake from a road vendor. And this recipe is how she remembered them tasting.

Because this has at all times been a household venture, with a way of passing recipes and traditions down from one era to the following. That needed to kind of be mirrored within the e-book. 

MF: Do you continue to test in with one another on meals?

Bill: I believe it’s a Chinese factor. When you’re on the cellphone or greeting somebody, you don’t say “what’s occurring?” You say “have you ever eaten but?”